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Going Through the Proofs 


[Courtesy: Kanu Gandhi] 



Mahatma Gandhi 
The Journalist 


S. 1ST. BH ATTACH ARY Y A 



ASIA PUBLISHING HOUSE 

BOMBAY - CALCUTTA - NEW DELHI - MADRAS 
LUCKNOW * BANGALORE - LONDON * NEW YORK 




Sailendra Nath Bhattacharyya (1921) 

Copyright © by S. N. Bhattacharyya 1965 


PRINTED IN INDIA 

BY M. G. DANIEL AT THOMPSON & CO PRIVATE LTD. 
MADRAS-1 AND PUBLISHED BY P. S. JAYASINGHE 
ASIA PUBLISHING HOUSE, BOMBAY-1 



To 

STHITI 

who relieved me of many 
onerous tasks so that I could 
devote time to this book 



The objective of journalism is service. 

Mahatma Gandhi 


Speak of me as I am ; nothing extenuate 
Nor set down aught in malice 

Othello , V, 2 . 



Introduction 


“ Lord Linlithgow, the Viceroy at New Delhi, said to me, ‘Gandhi 
is the biggest thing in India.’ That is correct. Gandhi is a unique 
phenomenon.” Thus wrote Louis Fischer in his book A Week 
with Gandhi. 

That he was unique among men, need not be reiterated. He 
was original in whatever he did. He said something new when- 
ever he spoke. “ He thinks aloud and the entire process is 
for the record.” A discussion with him on any subject was a 
“ voyage of discovery 

His life, whatever activity he was involved in, was an experi- 
ment with truth. He could and did take a detached view of 
everything and so was able to bring out the best. 

Whatever work he laid his gentle hands on, he did it with a 
sincerity of purpose. That always lent strength to the cause. His 
minute care for details and clear thinking regarding the ultimate 
objective — good of the people — made all his projects successful. 
And, his role as a journalist was no exception. 

The purpose of this book is to bring his contributions in 
this sphere to the limelight so that those working in the line 
could be benefited. To quote Shri Jawaharlal Nehru : “ To him 
life was an integrated whole, a closely woven garment of many 
colours. A word to a child, a touch of healing to a sufferer, 
was as important as a resolution of challenge to the British 
Empire.” 

Gandhiji once said : “ My life is my message.” So a journalist 
ought to be interested in finding out the particular message he 
preached and practised in the field of journalism. It will be 
found that his preachings and practices were nothing but selfless 

vii 



Introduction 


service. Like Wickham Steed, he believed that the printing and 
setting of news or views, were social services. 

There are many books on Gandhiji dealing with different 
aspects of his eventful life. This is an addition to that varied list. 
In the course of this work, the more the author plunged into the 
background materials, the more conscious he became of the vastness 
of the subject and his obvious limitations. During the Iasi seven 
years that the author was collecting materials on the subject, he 
met or corresponded with many valued associates of Gandhiji, 
most of whom gladly helped him. He is grateful to them all and 
does not want to mention individual names, lest they feel embar- 
rassed. 


S. N. Bhattacharyya 



Acknowledgments 


The author gratefully acknowledges the permission accorded so 
generously by the Navajivan Trust, Ahmedabad, for using quota- 
tions from Mahatma Gandhi’s writings, speeches, etc., and also to 
authors and publishers, for extracts from the following : 

My Childhood with Gandhiji by Prabhudas Gandhi ; Mahatma 
Gandhi-. The Last Phase by Pyarelal ; The Nation* s Voice edited 
by C. Rajagopalachari and J. C. Kumarappa ; Stray Glimpses of 
Bapu by Kaka Kalelkar (all published by Navajivan Publishing 
House, Ahmedabad) ; Gujarat and its Literature by K. M. Munshi, 
published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay; Gandhi : The 
Master by K. M. Munshi, published by M/s. Rajkamal Publica- 
tions, Delhi ; Mr. Gandhi : The Man by Millie Graham Polak ; 
Incidents of Gandhiji 1 s Life and Reminiscences of Gandhiji edited 
by Chandrashanker Shukla, published by Vora & Co., Publishers, 
Bombay ; A Bunch of Old Letters by Jawaharlal Nehru ; A History 
of the Press in India by S. Natarajan and Indian Writing in English 
by K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar (all published by Asia Publishing 
House, Bombay); All Through the Gandhicm Era by A. S. Iyengar 
and At the Feet of Mahatma Gandhi by Raj endra Prasad, published 
by Hind Kitabs Ltd., Bombay ; Gandhi : A Study by Hiren 
Mukherjee, published by National Book Agency (Private) Ltd., 
Calcutta ; The History of the Indian National Congress, Vols. I 
and II by Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya, published by Padma Publica- 
tions Ltd., Bombay; In the Shadow of the Mahatma by G.D. Birla, 
published by Orient Longmans Ltd., Bombay ; Mahatma — Life 
of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi by D. G. Tendulkar, published 
by V. K. Jhaveri and D. G. Tendulkar, Bombay ; Seven Months 
with Mahatma Gandhi by Krishna das, published by S. Ganesan & 



Acknowledgments 

Co., Madras ; Mahatma Gandhi by H. S. L. Polak, H. N. Brails- 
ford and Lord Pethick-Lawrence, published by Odhams Press Ltd., 
London ; The Indian Press by Margarita Barns and My Gandhi by 
J. H. Holmes, published by George Allen & Unwin Ltd., London ; 
My Early Life by Sir Winston Churchill, published by M/s. 
Thornton Buttcrworth Ltd., London ; Essays on Education by 
Whitney Griswold, published by the Yale University Press, New 
Haven, Conn. (U.S.A.) ; The Press the Public Wants by Kingsley 
Martin, published by The Hogarth Press, London ; The Wit and 
Wisdom of Gandhi, edited by Homer A. Jack, published by 
M/s. Allyn & Beacon, Boston ; Principles of Newspaper Manage- 
ment by J- E. Pollard, published by McGraw-Hill Book Co., New 
York ; A Week with Gandhi by Louis Fischer, published by Inter- 
national Book House, Bombay. 

Excerpts from A Free and Responsible Press , a report of the 
Commission on Freedom of the Press, U.S.A. , published by the 
University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois ; The Educational 
Role of the Press by Henry De Jourenel & others, published by 
the League of Nations, Paris ; Impressions of Mahatma Gandhi : 
A Portrait by the British Broadcasting Corporation, London, have 
also been used. 

The author is grateful to the Commonwealth Press Union for 
making use of Lord Shawcross’ Address ; to the United Nations, 
for Mon. S. Lopez, Report on the Freedom of the Press and to 
Associated Press of- America for quotations from an interview 
with Gandhiji conducted by Preston Gover. 



Contents 

Introduction 

Acknowledgments i x 

List of Illustrations xi* 

1 A FREE-LANCE JOURNALIST 1 

2 SPONSOR OR EDITOR 8 

3 RUNNING THE DESK 70 

4 EDITOR WITH A DIFFERENCE 86 

5 MANAGING THE PAPER 100 

6 CURSE OF ADVERTISEMENT 116 

7 LIBERTY OF THE PRESS 135 

8 IN RETROSPECT AND PROSPECT 156 

Bibliography 171 

Institutions Founded or Guided by Gandhiji 186 


Index 


189 



List of Illustrations 


1 

2 

3 

4 


Going through the proofs 

Writing an editorial for the paper 

Replying to correspondents* queries 

Reading the printed copy 

Talking to the journalists on board the steam* J 
launch in Noakhali, Bengal 1 

I 

J 


Frontispiece 


between 
96 and 97 


5 Papers Gandhi ji edited 



1 


A Free-Lance Journalist 


When on arrival in London in September 1888, to study 
law, Gandhiji, at the age of nineteen, for the first time read a 
newspaper, he could scarcely imagine at that time, how actively he 
would be associated with the newspaper world for the rest of his life. 

Gandhiji would spend hours devouring the columns of the Daily 
Telegraph , the Daily News and the Pall Mall Gazette . Travel 
stories, with plenty of illustrations, fascinated him, particularly. 
Newspaper reading was a novel experience for him as to quote him 
“ In India I had never had read a newspaper "\ 1 

Inci dent ally, we may mention here that Gandhiji was born 
in 1869, the same year when the Suez Canal was opened, linking 
the East with the West. A few years earlier, both the submarine 
and land telegraph lines were laid between England and India. 
Reuters news services were also extended to India. A year before 
Gandhiji" s birth, i.e. 1868, the Amrita Bazar Patrika of Calcutta was 
started. Six years later. The Statesman also started its publication. 

Newspapers were not only informative and entertaining to 
him, they made him ambitious as well. Why not write articles for 
them ? The desire latent in a human being — and he was quite 
young then — to see his name and article in print was too 
great a temptation to resist. His friendship with the members 
of the London Vegetarian Society afforded him an opportunity 
to write for its organ the Vegetarian . He contributed, during his 
stay of about three years in England, nine articles on diet, customs, 
festivals, etc., of the Indians. These are his earliest writings on 
record. 

1 M. K. Gandhi: An Autobiography or The Story of My Experimetii& with 
Truth (Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1956), p. 47. 



Mahatma Gandhi— The Journalist 

The first one was published in the issue of February 7, 1891, 
under the caption : k Indian Vegetarian ’. Here he dispels the 
common belief that all Indians are vegetarians and lists the food 
habits of vegetarians in different parts of his country. In conclusion, 
he mentions, “ en passant that the cow is an object of worship 
among the Hindus, and a movement set on foot — to prevent the 
cows from being shipped off for the purpose of slaughter, is 
progressing rapidly ", 

In another article in the journal dated March 28, 1891, he 
describes important Indian religious ceremonies under the caption: 

‘ Some Indian Festivals ’. Travel stories which stirred his 
imagination earlier now enthused him to write these. On reaching 
India, he sent to the Vegetarian the travelogue: ‘ On my way home 
again to India’. It was published in two parts — in the issues 
dated April 9, and April 16, 1892. Three years of writing and 
staying abroad enlarged, not only his scope of writing but made 
him a better and more accomplished free-lance journalist. Here 
is a sample. On the return journey, the ship was caught in 
a storm and in that background Ire wrote : “ If 1 ventured out 

on the dock I was splashed with water. There goes a crash ; 
something broken. In the cabin you cannot sleep quietly. The 
door is hanging. Your bags begin to dance. You roll in your 
bed. You sometimes feel as if the ship is sinking. At the dinner 
table you are no more comfortable. The steamer rolls on your 
sides. Your forks and spoons are in your lap, even the cruet 
stand and the soup plate ; your napkin is dyed yellow and so on." 2 

A struggling barrister of Bombay that he was at the time, he 
had to do something more tangible than indulging in. non-remunera- 
tive journalism. In April, 1893, he sailed for South Africa, after 
getting an offer from Dada Abdullah and Co., to defend one of 
their cases. 

South Africa not only shaped many of the ideas and traits of 
Gandhiji, but made an out-and-out journalist of him as well. If 
the London Vegetarian Society afforded him a forum to write 
and speak, the political situation in South Africa chiselled him 
into a conscientious journalist. He was thrown into the whirlpool 
of politics. While fighting incessantly against all disabilities 
imposed on Indians, through representation, petition, memo- 

* Vegetarian (London, April 16, 1892). 


2 



A Free-Lance Journalist 

random, etc., he did not, for a moment, minimize the important 
role of newspapers. He would scan through all local papers 
and reply suitably to any misrepresentation or distortion of facts. 
Soon he became well known to the newspaper men in South Africa 
for his zeal in expounding the causes of the Indians. 

Daring the brief spell in Lidia, from the middle of 1896 to 
November 1896, the year when Marconi invented wireless tele- 
graphy, he was touring the country to enlist the support, among 
others, of editors for the South African Indian cause. In a letter 
to the editor of The Times of India he wrote : “ Publicity is our 

best and perhaps the only weapon of defence ”. 3 

He met Mr. Chesney, editor of The Pioneer, Allahabad, who 
editorially commented on the Green Pamphlet — his book des- 
cribing the condition of Indians in South Africa. Shri G. P. Pillay, 
editor of The Madras Standard, literally placed the paper at 
Gandhiji’s disposal. Gandhiji was not only supplying background 
material for editorials, but was also improving on those written 
by others. His mastery of facts and details was instantly recognized 
and appreciated. The editor of The Hindu was equally helpful. 
Soon he came in touch with editors of The Anuita Bazar Patrika 
and Bangabasi of Calcutta. He established good contact with 
The Statesman as well. The following extracts of the interview 
with The Statesman representative will be of interest as it focuses 
in a nutshell, the main Indian problem in South Africa. Inci- 
dentally, Gandhiji was now known in India through his famous 
Green Pamphlet wherein he highlighted the grievances of his 
countrymen in Africa. 

“Will you please tell me, Mr. Gandhi, in a few words,” The 
Statesman interviewer asked, “ something of the grievances .of the 
Indians in South Africa ? ” 

“ There are Indians,” Mr. Gandhi replied, “ in many parts 
of South Africa — in the Colonies of Natal, the Cape of Good 
Hope, and elsewhere — in all of which, more or less, they are 
denied the ordinary rights of citizenship. But 1 more particularly 
represent the Indians in Natal, who number about fifty thousand 
in a total population of some five hundred thousand. The first 
Indians were, of course, the coolies who were taken over under 
indentures from Madras and Bengal for the purpose of labouring 

3 The Times of India (Bombay, October 20, 1S96). 


3 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

in the various plantations. They were mostly Hindus, but a few 
of them were Mohamedans. They served their contract time, and 
on obtaining their freedom they elected to stay in the country, 
because they found that, as market gardeners or hawkers of vege- 
tables, they could earn from three to four pounds sterling per 
month. In this way, there are, at present, about thirty thousand 
free Indians settled in the Colony, while some sixteen thousand 
others are serving their indentures. There is, however, another 
class of Indians, numbering about 5,000 Mohamedans from 
the Bombay side who have been attracted to the country by tire 
prospects of trade. Some of the latter are doing well. Many arc 
landowners in a large way, while two own ships. The Indians have 
been settled in the country for 20 years or more, and being pros- 
perous were contented and happy.” 

“ What then, was the cause of all the present trouble, 
Mr. Gandhi ? ” 

“ Simply trade jealousy. The Colony was desirous of securing 
all possible benefit from the Indians as labourers, because the 
natives of the country will not work in the fields, and. the Europeans 
cannot. But the moment the Indian entered into competition 
with the European as a trader, he found himself thwarted, 
obstructed and insulted by a system of organized persecution. 
And gradually, this feeling of hatred and oppression has been 
imported into the laws of the Colony. The Indians had been 
quietly enjoying the franchise for years, subject to certain property 
qualifications, and in 1894, there were 251 Indian voters on the 
register against 9,309 European voters. But the Government 
suddenly thought, or pretended to think, that there was danger 
of the Asiatic vote swamping the European, and they introduced 
into the Legislative Assembly a Bill disfranchising all Asiatics, . . . . ” 4 

Gandhiji writes in his autobiography r “ Mr. Saunders, editor 
of the Englishman, claimed me as his own. He placed his office and 
paper at my disposal. He even allowed me the liberty of making 
whatever changes I liked in the leading article he had written on 
the situation, the proof of which he sent me in advance.” 5 

Gandhiji kept a full account of the expenditure for promoting 

4 The Statesman (New Delhi, November 12, 1896). 

s M. K. Gandhi : An Autobiography or The Story of My Experiments with 
Truth (Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1956), pp. 181-182. 

4 



A Free-Lance Journalist 


the cause of Indians in South Africa. In the detailed note sub- 
mitted to the Natal Indian Congress, there is the following entry. 0 


5th July (1896) 

Rs. As. P. 

Carriage from morning to afternoon and 
previous evening at Allahabad — visiting 
editors, etc. 6 0 0 


Acquaintance with editors and working closely with the editorial 
staff of the newspapers helped Gandhiji in acquiring some inside 
knowledge of the working of these papers. This emboldened him 
to start one journal in South Africa. The following interview 
on board the * Co uriand ’ off Durban, with the representative 
of the Natal Advertiser on January 13, 1897, i.e. immediately on 
return from India, will throw more light on the subject. 

Q. “ Have the Indian Congress no intention of starting a newspaper in 
Natal ? *’ 

A. “ There was an intention, not by the Indian Congress, but by a body 
of workers who sympathize with the Congress, of starting a paper, but that 
idea had to be given up, simply because I could not see my way to devote my 
time to that and other work. I had instructions to bring material and Indian 
type, but as I found it would be impossible for me to work it, I did not bring 
anything. Had I been able to persuade the gentlemen with whom I was negotiat- 
ing to come over here, I might have brought the material, but as that 
fell through, I did not do so.” 

While a student in London, Gandhiji got acquainted with 
Mr. DadabhaiNaoroji, leader of the Indian community in England, 
who in 1890 started the journal India, dealing mainly with topics of 
Indian interest. Gandhiji became the journal’s ‘ Durban, Johan- 
nesburg and South African correspondent \ It is not certain 
whether he was a self-appointed correspondent or one maintained 
by India on an honorarium basis. In any case, Gandhiji’s purpose 
was served. He was ventilating the grievances of Indians in 
South Africa. Here is a telegram sent by him, and which was 
published in India on 9 September, 1896. 

“ The court has decided that the Government has power to remove Indians 
in the Transvaal to locations for both trade and residence. Judge Jorrisen 
dissented from the decision. Great consternation prevails. It is feared that the 
removal to locations may paralyse trade. Large interests are at stake. We are 


6 The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (The Publications Division, 
Delhi, 1959), Vol. II, p. 139, 


5 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

relying upon Mr. Chamberlain’s promise to make representations to the 
Transvaal Government after the trial of a test case, which, he said, was neces- 
sary to secure a definite issue.” 7 

The famine that broke out in India in 1897, worried Gandhiji 
very much. The Central Famine Committee, Calcutta, appealed 
to the British Colonies for contributions. Gandhiji took up the 
cause for the service of humanity and wrote among others the 
following letter, dated February 2, 1897, to the editor. The 
Natal Mercury. 

Sir, 

I venture to offer a few remarks on t.he Indian famine, regarding which 
appeal for funds has been made to the British Colonies, ft is not perhaps 
generally known that Tndia is the poorest country in the world, in spite of the 
fabulous accounts of the riches of her Rajahas and Maharajahas. The highest 
Indian authorities state that “ the remaining fifth (i.e., of the population of 
British India), or 40,000,000, go through life on insufficient food.” This is the 
normal condition of British India. Famines, as a rule, recur in India every 
four yeai-s. It must not be difficult to imagine what the condition of the people 
would be at such a time in that poverty stricken country. Children are snatched 
from their mothers, wives from their husbands. Whole tracts are devastated, 
and this in spite of the precautions taken by a most benevolent Government... . 

The present famine bids fair to beat the record in point of severity. The 
distress has already become acute. The worst time has yet to come, when 
summer sets in. This is the first time, I believe, that the British Colonies have 
been appealed to from India, and it is to be hoped the response will be 
generous.... 

October 1899 was a landmark in the free-lance journalism of 
Gandhiji. The Boer War broke out and Gandhiji, with Indian 
volunteers, offered his services for tending the sick and the wounded 
in the battle-field. Once in the job, he gained first hand experience 
of the battle-field. He recorded these experiences for publication 
in the Times of India of Bombay. Gandhiji thus joined the band 
of early war correspondents. Incidenta'ly, the Boer War also 
saw another famous man as a war correspondent. This was 
Mr. Winston Churchill. While Mr. Churchill, five years younger 
and a soldier, startled the reading public of England by his inter- 
pretative war despatches and military exposures, Gandhiji was, 
by contrast, a detailed chronicler, mostly confined to the activities 
of the Indian Ambulance Corps. It helped him in discovering in 
himself a jo urnalist of no mean talent. At times he was poetic, 
everTTn the grim surrounding. Speaking later in Calcutta, he 

7 Ibid. (I960), Vol. Ill, p. 17. 


(5 



A Free-Lance Journalist 

compared the perfect order at the front and holy stillness to those 
of a Trappist monastery. He said : 

“ Tommy was then altogether lovable. Like Arjun, they went 
to the battle-field because it was their duty. And how many 
proud, rude, savage spirits has it not broken into gentle creatures 
of God?” 

In his despatch to the Times of India Weekly, published on 
June 16, 1900, Gandhiji gives a detailed account of the Ambulance 
Corps, quoting copiously eulogies from local papers. In these 
despatches he introduced what we now call the human interest 
story in order to break the monotony of the narrative. He tells 
how “ An Indian woman who lives on the daily sale of her fruits 
is reported, on the soldiers landing at the Durban Wharf, to have 
emptied the whole contents of her basket into Tommy's huck 
saying that was all she could give that day.” 8 

A student of journalism would like to compare such material 
with the vigour of language, knowledge of military science and 
purposiveness of Mr. Churchill, when he was sending despatches 
to his paper, the Morning Post. 

“ We must face facts. The individual Boer, mounted in a suitable country, 
is worth from three to five regular soldiers. The power of modern rifles is so 
tremendous that frontal attacks must often be repulsed. The extraordinary 
mobility of the enemy protects his flanks. The only way of treating the 
problem is either to get men equal in character and intelligence as riflemen, 
or, failing the individual, huge masses of troops.” 

Then, in the same despatch, a passionate appeal : 

“Are the gentlemen of England all fox-hunting ? Why not an English 
Light Horse ? For the sake of our manhood, our devoted colonists and our 
soldiers, we must persevere with the war.” 9 


8 Ibid. (1960), Vol. Ill, p. 141. 

* Winston Churchill : My Early Life (Thornton Butterworth Ltd., London, 
1930), pp. 316-317, 


7 



2 


Sponsor Or Editor 


A. Indian Opinion 

Launching of the weekly the Indian Opinion was no 
accident. Circumstances were leading to the establishment of a 
journal in South Africa which could voice effectively the feelings 
of Indians living under the worst form of apartheid. 

The primary activities of the Natal Indian Congress, founded 
in 1893 by Gandhiji’s initiative, were to safeguard Indian interests 
and acquaint the Englishmen in S. Africa and England and the 
people of India with the conditions in Natal. 

Publicity, as will be seen, was in Gandhiji’s blood and he had 
a knack for it. Even before this direct plunge into the held of 
journalism, he cultivated, as we have seen earlier, friendship with 
the editors of influential journals. That was not the age of micro- 
phone or radio. His feeble voice could not reach thousands of 
Indians scattered all over South Africa. Nor could he inform 
the world outside about the state of affairs in Africa. The Congress 
had no newspaper of its own. Exposition of the Indian cause could 
not be expected from the existing ones, mostly in the hands of 
vested interests. Those who controlled the press, he realised soon, 
could create a public opinion. He recorded later : 

“ I believe that a struggle which chiefly relies upon internal strength cannot 
be wholly carried on without a newspaper — it is also my experience that we 
could not perhaps have educated the local Indian community, nor kept Indians 
all over the world in touch with the course of events in South Africa in any 
other way, with the same ease and success as through the Indian Opinion, which 
therefore was certainly a most useful and potent weapon in our struggle.” 1 

1 M. K. Gandhi : Satyagraha in South Africa (Navajivan Publishing House, 
Ahmedabad, 1950), p. 142. 

8 



Sponsor or Editor 

Shri Madanjit Vyavaharik was an ex- schoolmaster of Bombay 
and a political co-worker of Gandhiji in South Africa. He 
established a press — The International Printing Press — at 
113 Grey Street, Durban, in 1898. Many of the pamphlets and 
brochures of the Natal Congress inspired, if not actually written, 
by Gandhiji, were printed in that press. Gandhiji was also able to 
inspire Madanjit with the idea to start a weekly. Thus the Indian 
Opinion started its publication and the first issue was out on June 4, 
1903, though Gandhiji, in his autobiography, gives the date 
as 1904. 

Mr. George Hendrick, in the article 4 Gandhi, Indian Opinion 
and Freedom ’ wrote : 

44 Even the date Indian Opinion began publication is almost always given 
incorrectly (Gandhi remembered it 1904) and biographers and bibliographers 
have continued to give 1904 date instead of 4th June 1903. 

The first editorial — c Ourselves ’ — an unsigned one, was 
written by Gandhiji. This is quoted below for the simplicity of 
language and direct appeal of the content : 

We need offer no apology for making an appearance. The Indian 
community in South Africa is a recognised factor in the body politic, and 
a newspaper, voicing its feelings, and specially devoted to its cause, would hardly 
be considered out of place : indeed, we think, it would supply a longfelt want. 

The Indians, resident in British South Africa, loyal subjects though they are 
of the King-Emperor, labour under a number of legal disabilities which, it is 
contended on their behalf, are undeserved and unjust. The reason of this 
state of affairs is to be found in the prejudice in the minds of the Colonists, 
arising out of misunderstanding the actual status of the Indian as a British 
subject, the close relations that render him kin to Colonists, as the dual title 
of the Crowned Head so significantly pronounces, and the unhappy 
forgetfulness of the great services India has always rendered to the Mother 
Country ever since Providence brought loyal Hind under the flag of Britannia. 
It will be our endeavour, therefore, to remove the misunderstanding by placing 
facts in their true light before the public. 

We are far from assuming that the Indians here are free from all the faults 
that are ascribed to them. Wherever we find them to be at fault, we will 
unhesitatingly point it out and suggest means for its removal. Our country- 
men in South Africa are without the guiding influence of the institutions that 
exist in India and that impart the necessary moral tone when it is wanting. 
Those that have immigrated as children, or are bom in the Colony, have no> 
opportunity of studying the past history of the nation to which they belong, 
or of knowing its greatness. It will be our duty, so far as it may be in our 

2 Gandhi Marg (Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, Rajghat, New Delhi, 1958), Vol. II, 
No, 2, p. 155, 


9 



Mahatma Gandhi - — The Journalist 

power, to supply these wants by inviting contributions from competent 
writers in England, in India, and in this sub-continent. 

Time alone will prove our desire to do what is right. But we can do very 
little unaided. We rely on generous support from our countrymen, may we 
hope for it from the great Anglo-Saxon race that hails His Majesty Edward 
VIZ as King-Emperor ? For, there is nothing in our programme but a desire 
to promote harmony and good-will between the different sections of the one 
mighty Empire.’* 

in the same issue-, the second leading article The British 
Indians in South Africa/, as also short notes like * Is it fair \ 
Virtuous Inconsistency % fi Better late than never % c Words and 
deeds", 4 Minute by the Mayor’, were written by Gandhiji. 
Most of the articles by him, unlike those of Young India or 
Harijan , were unsigned. 

Shri Madanjit, as proprietor of the Indian Opinion 5 gave the 
following information, as printed on the first page of the first issue, 
for the consumption of all readers. The underlying spirit is in 
tune with the main editorial quoted earlier and Gandhiji’s influence 
is unmistakably manifest. 

"This weekly newspaper is published in four languages namely English, 
Gujarati, Tamil and Hindi in the interests of the British Indians residing in 
South Africa. 

The policy of the paper would be to advocate the cause of the British 
Indians in the sub-continent. But while it would insist upon the rights of 
the community, it would not be slow to point out to it its responsibilities also 
as members of a mighty Empire. It would persistently endeavour to bring 
about a proper understanding between the two communities which Providence 
has brought together under one flag. 

The advantages to the Indian community in subscribing to and supporting 
this paper would be — 

(i) It would have a newspaper that would advocate its cause as well as 
give to all sections its news in their own languages. 

(ii) It would contain news specially affecting Indians of all parts of South 
Africa, besides local and general information. 

(iii) It would contain an epitome of events happening in India. 

(iv) It would give commercial intelligence. 

(v) It would contain contributions from competent writers, Indians as 
well as Europeans, on all subjects — Social, Moral, and Intellectual. 

The advantages to the European community would be — 

(i) The paper would give it an idea of Indian thought and aspirations* 

(ii) It would acquaint it with such Indian matters as are not commonly 
known to it, and yet which should not be ignored by the true Imperialists, 

10 



Sponsor or Editor 

To Europeans and Indians alike, it would serve as the best advertising medium 
in those branches of the trade in which Indians are especially concerned. 

The rate of annual subscription is 12s. 6d . in the Colony, and outside the 
Colony 17s. payable in advance. 

Single copies are sold at 3d. each. 

Advertising charges can be had on application to the undersigned. 

V. Madanjit 
Proprietor, Indian Opinion 
1 1 3, Grey Street, Durban. 

As indicated, the foolscap sized, three-column journal started 
publishing South African Indian news and views. It was filled 
with discriminatory lav/ cases involving Indians, and which 
Gandhiji used to plead, or letters to the editors of local newspapers 
correcting false and. mistaken reports concerning Indians. 
Important happenings in India were also displayed. Besides, there 
were contributions from 4 competent writers ’ on subjects 6 social, 
moral and intellectual \ Gandhiji tried his hand on intellectual 
and aesthetic subjects as well. Here is an example, being the 
extract of an article on 6 Indian Art % — published in the issue 
of the journal of September 17, 1903. 

“ ... The Hindu palace-architecture of Gwalior, the Indian- Muhammadan 
mosques and mausoleums of Agra and Delhi, with several of the older 
Hindu temples of Southern India, stand unrivalled for grace of outline and 
elaborate wealth of ornament. The Taj Mahal at Agra justifies Heber's excla- 
mation, that its builders had designed like Titans, and finished like jewellers. 
The open-carved marble windows and screens at Ahmedabad furnish examples 
of the skilful ornamentation which beautifies every Indian building, from the 
cave monasteries of the Buddhist period downward. They also show with 
what plasticity the Hindu architects adapted their Indian ornamentation to 
the structural requirements of the Muhammadan mosque. English decorative 
ait in our day has borrowed largely from Indian forms and patterns. The 
exquisite scrolls on the rock-temples at Karla and Ajanta, the delicate marble 
tracery and flat wood-carving of Western India, the harmonious blending of 
forms and colours in the fabrics of Kashmir, have contributed to the restora- 
tion of taste in England. Indian art-work, when faithful to native designs, 
still obtains the highest honours at the international exhibition of Europe/' 
Gandhiji was not only contributing articles for the journal but 
money as well. Journalistic adventure became increasingly 
expensive for him. During the first year he had to spend £ 2,000 
from his own pocket. This state of things could not be allowed 
to continue. The venture had either to be stopped or he had to 


n 



Mahatma G tndlii — The Journalist 

assume the full responsibility for it. Shri Madanjit also entreated 
him to take over the journal as well as the press in lieu of the 
money he had invested. He agreed. It was rather a formal hand 
over — the ‘ de jure ' recogirition of the ‘ de facto ’. Both 
Europeans and Indians in South Africa knew very well that he was 
the man responsible for the journal’s management and policy, 
though not the editor in name. As he, in his autobiography, re- 
called in a reminiscent mood : “ T had to bear the brunt of the 
work, having for most of the time to be practically in charge of 
the journal.” 3 

But financial burden was too much for a young barrister yet to 
set up lucrative practice. Nor did he realize how costly the journal, 
at the initial stage, could be. As he confesses, after getting wiser, 
“ L had no notion that I should have to invest any money in the 
journal.” 4 

But he was not sorry for all this. In his letter of January 13, 
1905, to his political guide and philosopher, Shri Gopal Krishna 
Gokhale, Poona, he wrote : “ When I saw that Mr. Madanjit 
could not carry on the paper without pecuniary assistance and as 
1 know that he was guided by thoroughly patriotic motives, I placed 
at his service the bulk of my savings .... 1 have already become 
responsible to the extent of nearly £ 3,500.” B 

In the same letter he indicated that he assumed the responsibility 
for the journal round about October, 1904. “ Three months ago, I 
took over the whole responsibility and management. Mr. Madanjit 
still remains nominally the proprietor and publisher, because I 
believe that he has done much for the community. My own 
office is at present being worked in the interests of the Indian 
Opinion ” 

Shri Mansukhlal Hiralal Nazar, a journalist from Bombay 
was appointed the editor in which post he continued till his death 
in January, 1906. In a signed obituary note in the Indian Opinion, 
Gandhiji, among other things wrote : “ Without him this journal 
would never have come into being. In the initial stages of its 

3 M. K. Gandhi : An Autobiography or The Story of My Experiments with 
Truth (Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1956), p. 285. 

4 Ibid., p. 285. 

6 Gandhi Marg (Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, Rajghat, New Delhi, 1960), Vol. IV, 
p. 234. 

12 



Sponsor or Editor 

struggle, Mr. Nazar took up almost the whole of the editorial 
burden, and if it is known for its moderate policy and sound news, 
the fact is due, to a very large extent, to the part that Mr. Nazar 
played in connection with it.” 

But that was much later. In December, 1904 the Indian Opinion 
entered into a new phase. Under the caption ‘ Ourselves ’ 
reminding the readers of the first editorial under the same caption 
of June 4, 1903, the Indian Opinion of December 24, 1904, informed 
the public that the paper “ enters upon the third stage of its career 
in the short space of the 18 months of its existence It also gave 
an account of how the paper, during the period, was run. The 
proprietor “ had to depend for the editing of the paper purely on 
voluntary and unpaid assistance More urgent was the task 
of enlisting paid subscribers. The Natal Indian Congress and 
the British Indian Association came to the rescue, but “ the paper 
continued, octopus-like, to devour all it received and wanted more 

Only “ a novel and revolutionary project ”, said the editorial, 
could save the situation. The workers “ were to look not to the 
present but to the future ; not to their pockets but to the paper 
first ”. Gandhiji rather demanded this from the workers when 
the declared policy of the journal was service. “It was to educate 
public opinion, to remove causes for misunderstanding, to put 
before the Indians their own blemishes ; and to show them the 
path of duty while they insisted on securing their rights.” 

The future plan was also unfolded in the same article. “ If a 
piece of ground sufficiently large and far away from the hustle of 
the town could be secured, for housing the plant and machinery, 
each one of the workers could have his plot of land on which he 
could live.” 

Thus the Phoenix settlement — 14 miles away from Durban 
town and 2f miles from the Phoenix Railway Station — came 
into being. The Indian Opinion was transferred there from Durban 
and the first issue, in one sheet, was printed on a treadle machine 
on the due date, i.e. December 24, 1904. In the farm everyone 
had to work, drawing the same living wage — £ 3 per head — and 
attending to the press job work in spare time. 

In the issue of December 31, 1904, the Gujarati edition of the 
Indian Opinion published brief notes on the three Englishmen 
who were assisting in the printing and publication of the paper. 


13 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

Mr. West owned a printing press in Johannesburg. But he joined 
the struggling group with 24 hours' notice. “ Now he lakes from 
us just enough, for his bare needs, but stays on with us in the faith 
that there will be profits eventually. He toils in from morning 
to evening looking upon the work as his own.” 

Mr. Kitchin was an electrical contractor. He joined the Indian 
Opinion as “ he felt that the objectives of Indian Opinion were 
worthy”. Then there was Mr. Polak. “Since he is a man of 
much simplicity and believes that he can freely express his feeling 
against oppression through Indian Opinion he has informed his 
chief of his intention to resign, and he will arrive here towards the 
beginning of next year. Meanwhile he has started writing for the 
journal ”. 

In 1905 there was the outbreak of plague in Johannesburg. 
Gandhiji with a band of volunteers was fighting against this deadly 
disease. Throughout this period he was writing editorials, 
publishing news items and letters, drawing the attention of the 
Town Council as also the Indian community to the seriousness of 
the plague. He stated that he was serving a trinity of interests, 
viz. “ truth, public weal and my own countrymen ”. 

Gandhiji was also continuously fighting against the disabilities 
suffered by the Indians in South Africa. These disabilities were 
many and varied. There were restrictions on immigration and 
trading ; on travelling in trains and cabs ; on walking on foot- 
paths and what not. These were the result of racial arrogance and 
trade policy. The columns of the Indian Opinion were full of 
cases dealing with these disabilities and pleadings for sanity from 
the ruling power. 

“ ... In protesting against the importation of indentured Asiatic labour 
and against the attempt to reduce ‘ free ’ Asiatics to sub-human serfdom, 
Gandhiji was moved, not by abstract theory, but by instinctive sympathy and 
profound concern for the welfare of future generations. It was this love of 
humanity (European as well as Chinese) — and not political or economic 
theory — which inspired his criticism of Mr. Skinner’s report on Chinese 
labour for the mines, and which also evoked his appreciation of Mr. CreswelFs 
action in resigning his post as manager of a gold mining company because 
he could and would employ well-paid white labour, while the owners, caring 
only for profits, insisted on his employing cheap imported labour.” 6 

8 The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (The Publications Division, 
Delhi, 1960), Vol. IV, preface, p. vii. 

14 



Sponsor or Editor 

Narrating his experiences of those struggling days, Mr. Henry 
Polak, who left his cosy job in the Critic and joined the groxxp, 
wrote : 

“ The printing press, where the typesetting was done by hand, was run by 
a decrepit oil engine which frequently broke down. When this occurred, the 
settlers had to resort to hand-power to turn out the paper in time for the usual 
despatch of mails, often until the middle of the night. More than once, when 
this happened during one of his occasional visits — he could not permanently 
reside there, as his public and professional work in the Transvaal then occupied 
almost all his energies — L can recall Gandhiji literally putting his shoulder 
to the wheel as energetically as any of us.” 7 

His wife, Mrs. Millie PolaJk, had also recorded interesting facts 
about the printing arrangement. 

“ The printing press, at this time, had no mechanical means at its disposal, 
for the oil-engine had broken down, and at first animal power was utilised, 
two donkeys being used to turn the handle of the machine. But Mr. Gandhi, 
ever a believer in man doing his own work, soon altered this, and four hefty 
Zulu gills were procured for a few hours on printing day. These took the 
work in turns, two at a time, while the other two rested ; but every male able- 
bodied settler, Mr. Gandhi included, took his turn at the handle, and thus 
the copies of the paper were 4 ground out 

I remained a dunce to the last”, merrily recalled Gandhiji 
after many years. 

Like so many experiments which shaped GandhijPs thought 
and belief, the experiment in running the paper revealed many a 
novelty to him so much so that he devoted one full chapter, in his 
autobiography, on his experience on the first night, ft not only 
shows his intimate knowledge of tire working of the printing press 
at that time, but also speaks of his masterly grip on every detail. 

Shri Prabhudas Gandhi adds further details of the working in 
the press-room of the Indian Opinion . 

Friday nights were of importance for the weekly Indian Opinio n was 
despatched by Saturday. The material for the paper was composed by mid- 
day on Friday. It was evening by the time the paper went to the press. There 
were no servants, peons or other labour. The press workers themselves had 
to print the paper, fold it, paste the addresses, make bundles and take them 
to the station. The work would take the whole night and there would still 
be something left to do after day break. Under such pressui'e of work Gandhiji 

7 H. S. L. Polak ; Incidents of Gandhiji' s Life , ed. by Chandrashankar 
Shukla (Vora Sc Co., Bombay, 1949), p. 240. 

5 Millie Graham Polak : Mr . Gandhi : The Man (Vora Sc Co., Bombay, 
1949), p. 40. 


15 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

along with others would keep awake all night. To encourage the staff rice- 
pudding would be served at mid-night.” 0 

Mr. Polak was earlier instrumental in introducing Ruskin's 
work — Unto This Last — to Gandhiji while he was on a journey 
by train. The book changed Gandhiji’s ideas profoundly. Not 
only Ruskin, but other thinkers and philosophers like Thoreau, 
Emerson, and Tolstoy had great influence on him. Their teachings, 
in turn, influenced his writings in the Indian Opinion. 

As Gandhiji admitted : “ So long as it (. Indian Opinion ) was 
under my control, the changes in the journal were indicative of 
changes in my life. The Indian Opinion in those days, like the 
Young India and the Navjivan today, was a mirror of part of my 
life.” 10 

His writings on the philosophy of Satyagraha served as inspira- 
tion for the Satyagraha movement he launched. 

What were the main items in the paper ? These were varied, 
covering many topics. Two or more editorials and a few short 
editorial comments dealing with mostly Indian .problems or discri- 
minatory law cases involving Indians, were the weekly features. 
It had a small correspondence column. In the issue of January 27, 
1906, the following reply, in the said column, was given : “ G. D. L. 
(Over port). Your letter is quite unsuitable for publication.” 

The same issue made an important announcement regarding 
the suspension of Tamil and Hindi editions for want of “ editors 
and compositors 

The paper contained reproductions from other journals - - 
mostly relating to Indian problems. There was sometimes, ‘ Our 
Weekly London Letter ’ column. 

Gandhiji was looking for reliable correspondents in other 
countries, particularly in England. His letter of December 10, 1904, 
to Mr. Dadhabhai Naoroji, will be read with interest in this context : 
Dear Sir, 

Indian Opinion has entered on a third stage in its career. I would 
not weary you with the important step that has been taken in connection with 
it. You will see the full particulars published in it in the course of this month. 
It is now intended to have a weekly or a fortnightly letter from England of 

0 Prabhudas Gandhi : My Childhood with Gandhiji (Navajivan Publishing 
House, Ahmedabad, 1957), p. 45. 

10 M. K. Gandhi : An Autobiography or The Story of My Experiments with 
Truth (Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1956), p. 286. 

16 



Sponsor or Editor 

general interest but also dealing particularly with the Indian question, in South 
Africa, as it may have effected (sic) from time to time in London. Could you 
recommend anyone who would undertake the work and if so, at what rate ? 
I have nothing special to report on the question this week.” 

In his letter on January 13, 1905, to Shri Gokhale, reference 
of which has been made earlier, he requests for correspondents to 
write for the Indian Opinion. “ I am also anxious to secure either 
honorary or paid correspondents who would contribute weekly 
notes in English, Gujarati, Hindi and Tamil.” 

January 6, 1906 issue of Indian Opinion contained the following 
interesting news item : 

Congratulation — It is with great pleasure that we announce the 
marriage of Mr. H. S. L. Polak and Miss M.G. Downs (who recently arrived 
from London), at Johannesburg on Saturday last. Mr. Polak is the Transvaal 
representative of Indian Opinion, and Mrs. Polak is in thorough sympathy with 
the cause of Indians in South Africa. We offer our heartiest congratulations 
and best wishes to the happy pair. 

Sometimes photographs were published. A black bordered full 
page photograph of Shri Mansukhlal Hiralal Nazar was published 
in the same issue carrying an obituary written by Gandhiji, to 
which reference has already been made. Photos of the then Amir 
of Afganisthan, (1907), Shri Gokhale (March 10, 1908) and 
Gandhiji, when he was leading the South African delegation to 
London, were, among some others, published from time to time. 

There were other interesting news items, which gave a glimpse of 
the life at the settlement. An example : “ Many thanks. We have 

much pleasure in thanking Messrs. G. H. Miankahan and Co., 
for the gift of a splendid cricket set and a football, presented to the 
Indian Opinion Athletic Club 

The editor was a sports enthusiast as well. In the post script of 
the letter written to Shri Chhaganlal Gandhi, from Johannesburg, 
dated April 20, 1907, Gandhiji wrote : “ I am sending you three 

numbers of The Times of India. After you have seen and admired 
pictures I want you to cut out Gaekwar, the Jam and the Cricket 
Team. We might one of these days want to reproduce these pictures 
as supplements, and it would be better for you also to file any other 
picture you may come across and consider good enough for use.” 

Here is another piece of news item : 

Visitors at Phoenix. The International press was visited on Wednesday 
last, by Messrs M. K. Gandhi, H. O. Ally, Dawad Mahomed, Omar Haji, 
Amod Johari, M. C. Anglia, Peeran Mahomed and H. L. Paul. The various 


G— 2 


17 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

departments were inspected with interest and the visitors expressed treasure 
at what they saw. 

Some of the headlines of the Indian Opinion will interest modern 
journalists. Both these were printed on March 31. 1906. 

“IN THE IMPERIAL PARLlA - - 

MENT 

SYMPATHY FOR INDIAN GRIEVANCE 
INDIAN FOR TRANSVAL MISSION.” 

A typography-conscious editor would not put ‘ Parlia and 
‘ ment ’ like this. 

“ SENSATIONAL 
POTCHEFSTROOM CASE 

DUTCHMAN BLACKMAIL AN INDIAN 

MR. JUSTICE WESSELS ON JUSTICE AND COLOUR ” 

Examples of a few other captions are given below from the 
Indian Opinion, dated. July 25, 1906. These were neither * catchy’ 
nor would they provide a ‘ lead ’. 


“ ANOTHER REGISTRATION CASE 
MAGISTRATE’S CURIOUS DECISION " 

“ THE INDIAN STRETCHER BEARER CORPS 
AN INTERESTING RECORD ” 

Or lake the case of the following double column headlines which 
appeared in the December 29, 1906 issue of the journal : 

“ SOUTH AFRICA BRITISH INDIAN COMMITTEE 
COMPLIMENTARY BREAKFAST BY DELEGATES ” 


18 



Sponsor or Editor 

“ LORD REAY AND SIR RAYMOND WEST ON THE 
OBLIGATION OF THE EMPIRE 

DELIGATES LETTER'S : NO OPPOSITION TO COLONISTS " 


In spite of various checks adopted in the press, there was 
a spelling mistake in deligates, an unfortunate thing. We should 
not judge journalistic efficiency by the twentieth century standard. 
But still the insertion of ‘ breakfast ’ in a double column headline 
should sound atrocious now-a-days. 

Sometimes Gandhiji had to get into dangerous journalistic pit- 
falls known as “ printer’s devil.” One such interesting episode 
was narrated by Mr. Henry S. L. Polak. Paul Kruger, Ex-President 
of the South African Republic, died in July, 1904 while in exile in 
Europe. His mortal remains were to be buried at Pretoria, Africa. 
Mr. Polak was to cover the funeral proceedings. He was a 
fastidious journalist and did not like errors in the Indian Opinion. 
As such he asked Gandhiji to see the proof himself before it was 
printed. Mr. Polak’s opening sentence was “He is dead and 
buried But the Indian Opinion published, “ He is dead and 
burnt”. Mr. Polak was shocked and annoyed and wrote to 
Gandhiji immediately lest the mistake might create misunder- 
standing among the orthodox Boers. Gandhiji, however, explained 
that the word ‘ burnt ’ seemed natural to him, a Hindu, whose 
dead were habitually cremated. 

No wonder, Gandhiji was, in his letter of March, 1907, advising 
Shri Clihaganlal : “ While reading the proofs, compare them 

with the original book. Do not depend for spelling, etc., on the 
copy sent by me. Please send me the proofs before printing. 
Printing has to be done after deciding about the format, etc., of the 
book. And I believe it is desirable to print off after composing 
as much material as we have types for. Types necessary for job 
work, etc., should be kept apart.” 

Not only “ printer’s devil,” the enthusiastic journalist had 
had other troubles as well. In one of his lectures on Hindu 
Religion at Johannesburg, Gandhiji referred to the spread of 
Islam and said that the majority of converts came from the lower 
classes. It created a stir among the local Muslims and many letters 
of protest were sent to the editor of Indian Opinion. He had to 


19 



Mahatma. Gandhi — The Journalist 

publish letters in the Gujarati issue of the Indian Opinion on June 3, 
1905 and June 17, 1905, with a view to apologizing and clarifying 
the objections raised. He was also misunderstood while publishing a 
life sketch of Prophet Mohammad. This had to be stopped because 
of protests from Muslim members of the Indian community. 

Through the columns of the Indian Opinion , Gandhiji was repro- 
ducing biographies of great men and women of the world. His 
idea was to inspire his fellow countrymen so that they could emulate 
their examples. “ ... We hope that the readers of this journal 
will read their lives and follow them in practice and thus encourage 
us. We have suggested earlier, that each one of our subscribers 
should maintain a file on Indian Opinion. We remind of it on this 
occasion.” 11 The biographies were of people like Tolstoy, Lincoln, 
Mazzini, Elizabeth Fry, Florence Nightingale, Ishwar Chandra 
Vidyasagar. 

While writing these biographies, Gandhiji committed a few 
mistakes. In the life story of Abraham Lincoln he wrote that 
the assassin was torn to pieces by ‘ people who witnessed the 
dreadful deed’, when he was shot dead in the special box at the 
theatre. In fact, the assassin, Mr. Booth, was killed in a barn which 
was set on fire by the soldiers in pursuit of him. In the biography 
of Washington he writes that he was elected President for a second 
time in 1892-1893. In fact, it was in 1792-1793. 

Similarly, in the life of Wat Tyler who was fighting against the 
unjust taxes imposed by the King of England, he wrote that “ Wat 
Tyler lived in the 12th century But he lived in the 14th century. 

Under the caption — 


‘ THE DEPUTATION, 

A REMINDER ’ 

the Indian Opinion carried a photograph of Gandhiji and the 
following news item in its issue of October 13, 1906, 

“In connection with Mr. M. K. Gandhi's departure for England as one of 
the delegates for the Transvaal, it is of interest to recall the circumstances of 
his departure for India from Natal, in 1901. At that time, a committee was 
formed to present Mr. Gandhi with an address from the British Indian 

11 The Indian Opinion, Durban-Phoenix, South Africa, August 19, 1905. 

20 



Sponsor or Editor 

Community of Natal and invitations were issued to the heads of European 
community. Amongst the replies received was the following interesting letter 
from the late Sir John Robinson, at one time Prime Minister of the Colony 
of Natal : 

I beg to thank you for your kind invitation to the meeting at the Congress 
Hall this evening (October 15, 1901). It would have given me great pleasure 
to have been present on the occasion of so well earned a mark of respect to our 
able and distinguished fellow citizen Mr. Gandhi, but, unfortunately, my state 
of health prevents me going out at night, and I am, for the present, debarred 
from taking part in any public function ; so I must ask you kindly to excuse 
my inability to attend. 

Not the less heartily do I wish all success to this public recognition of the 
good work done, and the many services rendered to the community by 
Mr. Gandhi/' 

This is crude publicity. To bring in the ex-Prime Minister of 
Natal in a very roundabout way, was not in good journalistic 
taste. The only excuse was that Gandhiji was at the time away 
in England. 

Whatever might be the size, shape, content or policy of the 
paper, it was making a good headway in the realm of journalism. 
The Cape Argus'' leading article on the Indian Opinion was published 
in the journal in its issue of January 5, 1907. Tt, inter alia , stated : 

“ They (Natal Indians) have an able organ, Indian Opinion , printed in English 
and Gujarati, and it is from Natal that the champion of South African Indians' 
interests mostly came ", 

Under a sub-heading — * An Indian Poetess * — the Indian 
Opinion of March 2, 1907, reproduced the following paragraph 
from the journal Indian People : 

“ The Ladies Conference at Calcutta brought to prominence a lady orator, 
Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, already known as a poet of considerable distinction. 
Mrs. Naidu is a Bengali lady by birth and has married a Madrasi gentleman. 
She spoke without notes and made an impiessive and most eloquent speech. 
It is further stated that she is not accustomed to speak in public. It is a very 
hopeful sign of the times that our ladies are coming to the front and are taking 
active part in the great work of national reform. A gifted lady like 
Mis. Sarojini Naidu, with her persuasive and attractive eloquence, should be 
able to render important service to the women of India/' 

This was the first eulogistic reference made in public of Sarojini 
Devi whose friendship with Gandhiji lasted till death separated 
them. 

Struggle against Registration ensued soon and the Indian Opinion 
became the mouthpiece of this resistance movement. Its editorials 
struck a new note ; 64 Amidst a whole heap of bad coins, if there 

21 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 


is one true sovereign, the heap will be worth that one sovereign . . . 
if you produce one civil resister of merit he will pull things through. 
Do not start the struggle., .unless you have that stuff.” 

Satyagraha movement or passive resistance was launched in 
reply to the South African Government’s insistence on the regis- 
tration of Indians and other Asians. Under this, all such people 
were to note down important physical identity marks and put 
thumb impression on the certificates. A date was fixed by which, 
all Indians were to register their names, failing which they were 
to forfeit their right of residence and be liable to be fined or 
imprisoned. 

The Indian Opinion for the benefit of the large number of Indians, 
translated the ordinance into Gujarati. There were meetings of 
protest against this Black Ordinance. The struggle continued for 
a long time, with intermittent lull. Some sort of agreement was 
reached with the Government but the pledges of the Government 
were soon broken. The Indian Opinion of May 3, 1913, wrote ; 

“ Inspite of the bill being rushed forward a stage further, we imagine that it 
will never reach the third reading stage. But it is well for passive resisters to 
keep themselves in readiness. Tt is to be hoped that, if the struggle revived 
the impending third campaign will be the purest, the last and the most brilliant 
of all. We share the belief with Thoreau, that one true passive resister is 
enough to win victory for right. Right is on our side.” 

The Indian Opinion of September 20, 1913, wrote : 

“ Hitherto passive resisters have challenged arrests by crossing the Transvaal 
border. That is how, the present struggle too, has been commenced. We 
may, on this question of crossing of the bordei, at once say this method of 
resistance does not mean that we are asking for breaking of the provincial 
boundaries. On the contrary as soon as the struggle ceases, those who will 
have crossed the borders from different provinces will return to the province 
of their domicile ". 

The struggle continued and streams of people joined Gandhiji 
in their fight for justice. Because of Gandhiji’s earlier personal 
contact with the editors in England and India, there was widespread 
support for his movements. 

Gandhiji was writing incessantly boosting up the morale of the 
civil resisters. “ During 10 years, that is until 1914, excepting the 
intervals of my enforced rest in prison, there was liardly an issue of 
Indian Opinion without an article from me,” wrote Gandhiji. 
He was thrown in prison in 1908 and again in 1909. 

The political situation in India was not bright either. Earlier 

22 



Sponsor or Editor 

in 1907, the Indian National Congress split up between the 
extremists and the moderates. The Morley-Minto Reforms of 1909 
offered little to the Indians. The newspaper, Leader, started 
publication under the guidance of national leaders. The Press 
Act of 1910, was passed empowering the Government to demand 
security from the Press. 

The Satyagraha struggle continued till J 914, when on Shri 
Gokhale’s advice Gandhiji left South Africa. With his Phoenix 
settlers, he reached India in the midst of World War 1. 

The Satyagraha movement without the Indian Opinion, as 
Gandhiji admitted, would not have become a success. Tt awakened 
the Indians to their rights and privileges. 

The paper was solely used for the movement. Directives to 
resisters were issued ; news of successful boycott of Registration 
was published ; The ‘ Weekly Diary ’ of the Indian Opinion 
was eagerly read by Indians ; views of different aspects of the 
Satyagraha movement were displayed. The number of subscribers 
rose from 1,200 to 3,500. But the financial sting was still there. 

In a letter to Shri Gokhale, April 25, 1909, Gandhiji wrote : 
“ I gave you also the approximate summary of monthly expenses : 
office here £ 50, office in London £ 40, Indian Opinion £ 50, distressed 
families £ 25.” Expenditure on the Indian Opinion was like that on 
any other item during the Satyagraha movement. 

In the same letter he wrote that debt due to the Indian Opinion 
up to 20th instant was £ 1200. He ran the Indian Opinion “ at a loss 
in the interest of the struggle ”. “ I have devoted to the continuance 
of Indian Opinion and the establishment of Phoenix all my earnings 
during my last stay in South Africa, that is nearly £ 5000.” 

Voteless Indian settlers in Johannesburg were paid compensa- 
tion if removed from the segregated areas. “ The municipality’s 
offers were frequently so inadequate that the victims engaged 
Gandhi to take their claims to the appellate tribunal. He charged 
nominal fees and allocated half the costs allowed by the tribunal 
to the rising expenses of Indian Opinion.” 12 

But he could bear it on without regrets. “ It was never intended 
to be a commercial concern ”, he said. 

The paper was reorganized to meet the situation arising out of 

“ H. S. L. Polak, H. N. Brailsford, and Lord Pethick-Lawrence : Mahatma 
Gandhi (Odhams Press Ltd., London, 1949), p. 47. 


33 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

the Satyagraha movement. A few workers, it was arranged, would 
not join the struggle, but would run the paper instead. The size 
was reduced from 16 to 8 pages. It was brought out on Wednes- 
days instead of Saturdays so as to catch the English mail at Cape 
Town. 

Gandhiji was giving indication of the shape of things to 
come. In his letter to Shri Maganlal Gandhi, dated November 
27, 1909, written in Gujerati, he said : “Phoenix will be put to 
test now. Probably we may not get money from Johannesburg. 
Our pledge is that we shall bring out at least a one-page issue of 
Indian Opinion and distribute it among the people as long as 
there is even one person in Phoenix.” Within a week he again 
wrote to Maganlal Gandhi, in Gujerati : “ It is the duty of 

those who have devoted themselves to Phoenix to improve the 
life there and do their best to develop Indian Opinion : for through 
Indian Opinion we have been imparting education and doing 
public good. We need not be disheartened if some of us in 
Phoenix do not put in their best, waste our resources or are 
quarrelsome.” 

Immediately before the size of the Indian Opinion was changed, 
he wrote a letter to Mr. A. H. West, on or before December 
29, 1909 13 , saying : 

“ The size (of the Indian Opinion) should be changed as suggested. No 
apology need be offered in the paper for it. The English columns should be 
reduced. No leading matter of opinion (be) given for the present except 
explanatory notes. All matter should be severely condensed. Energy should 
be devoted to the art of condensing. It may be divided into Passive 
Resistance, Natal notes. Cape notes, etc. Reports of Bombay and other 

meetings may be considerably shortened The English columns then 

should simply give news on the disabilities throughout South Africa and about 
matters we are interested in ... . The Gujerati columns ought not to be 
reduced; but if the Gujerati subscribers fall off, even that may be reduced 
almost to any extent, you there, in Mr. Polak’s and my absence, being the 
sole judge.” 

Though Gandhiji said that no apology need to be offered, the 
Indian Opinion of January 1, 1910, published the following under 
the heading ‘ Ourselves * : 

“ With the present issue, this journal appears under a somewhat changed 

13 The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (Vol. X), the Publications 
Division, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India, 
p. 107. 

24 



Sponsor or Editor 

dress. The size, too, has been reduced* The Transvaal struggle has put 
a very severe strain on our resources. It has now become too great for us to 
continue the old form and size. It is within the knowledge of most of our 
readers that our publication is not a commercial concern, but our capacity 
for the service of the community to whose interests Indian Opinion is devoted 
is limited, and our limitation has necessitated the change the readers will 
notice in its appearance. We part very reluctantly by way of retrenchment 
with the cover whose colour was very specially selected. Though the size 
has been reduced, we hope that we shall be able by means of condensation 
to give the same amount of information. Our readers who are interested in 
the ideals we endeavour to promote can render useful service by finding 
subscribers for the journal which they may call their own. It is our desire to 
give more varied matter as our resources increase. It is, then, for the 
readers to say when they shall have a better service of news.*' 

The size of the paper was reduced. Still Gandhiji had the 
problem of finances. In his letter to Shri Maganlal dated 
January 20, 1910, Gandhiji wrote : 

c< It is desirable not to give more than a month's credit for Indian Opinion. 
You should only take a limited risk. Let the amount be debited to your 
account. It will not be deducted from your current allowance. You should 
never take liability for more than ten subscribers* Even that is, perhaps, too 
much. However, whatever liability you have taken upon yourself in the 
Cape Colony is binding on all as you did not know the new rule. The new 
rule is, I believe, very good — at least foi the present. " 

We will have to carry many (fresh) burdens ; it is, therefore, bettei to cut 
down these. This (not allowing too much credit) seems to be the prevalent 
practice of newspapers. As people gradually get used to it, they will follow 
it of their own accord. We pay the licence fee in advance because of 
compulsion, i.e., physical force. That we shall take the subscriptions in 
advance will be on the strength of soul-force. That soul-force consists in 
making Indian Opinion interesting and for that the only course open to us is 
to put in maximum effort. The subscriptions will then come in automatically. 
I have 9iO time now to dilate upon this " 

The Gujerati edition of the Indian Opinion , in its issue of 
September 4, 1912, published the following : 

<c It is more than seven years ago that this journal began to be printed at 
Phoenix. We are now taking a step forward. So far the legal proprietor has 
been Mr. Gandhi, but the ownership is now being transferred to (a board of) 
Trustees, and the objectives which will govern the management of Phoenix 
have been precisely laid down. We feel this is a step in the right direction 
and we are sure our readers will feel the same. 

The paper has never been in a position to pay its way. It is here needless 
to go into the reasons for that. It, however, need to be recalled on this 
occasion that the paper would have been in dire straits if Mr. Tata's generous 
help had not been drawn upon to meet its needs. 


25 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

“ When the workers decided to settle In Phoenix and start a journal there, 
it was expected that the income from it and the land would not only give 
them enough to live on but also enable them to put by substantial savings, for 
they were to be the masters of whatever profit might accrue from the 
enterprise. Experience has shown that the assumption was incorrect. We 
realised that the Phoenix way of life could not be reconciled with monetary 
gain. And so, for the last several years, the Phoenix settlement has been 
worked on that basis. 

Our principal object was that, while living by agriculture, we should give 
of our best in the service of the people and publish the paper for them. We 
have not so far succeeded in that aim. 

We gave up job-work many years ago. We now feel that we should also 
discontinue the practice of publishing advertisements. We believed then that 
advertisements were a good thing to have but on reflection we see that the 
practice is wholly undesirable. Advertisements are inserted by people who 
are impatient to get rich, in order that they may gain over their risals. 
They are also much in fashion these days that any and every kind of advertise- 
ment is published and paid for. This is one of the sorriest features of 
modem civilization, and for our part we wish to be rid of it. If however, 
we published non-commercial advertisements, which serve a public purpose, 
free of charge, they would fill the entire number each time, so we shall only 
accept them against payment. Other advertisements, we shall stop publishing 
forthwith. As for advertisements which we have on hand, we shall try to 
negotiate with our clients and free ourselves of the commitments. We shall 
then be able to work more on the land and more effectively fulfil the main 
object of the Trust Deed which we publish in this issue. 

<k We believe that the proposed changes will enhance our capacity for public 
service. We also hope that we shall be able to publish worthier and more 
valuable (reading) matter in the journal. It has been our endeavour daily to 
add to its value as an instrument of moral education. There are two, and 
only two, reasons for its existence : to strive to end the hardships suffered by 
Indians in this country and to promote moral education. The second 
purpose can be best served by our improving our way of life. That is why 
we are doing our best to eschew the commercial aspects of our work, such as 
jobbing and advertisements. Progressively as we live up to the ideals 
enumerated in the title deed, we shall be able to give our readers more useful 
material. We want all Indians to help us in this." 

The Phoenix Trust Deed was published in the Indian Opinion 
dated 14 September, 1912. Under the title, w Ourselves \ the 
following was published : 

46 The Trust Deed which we publish in this issue, and which is in course of 
registration, marks a step forward in our work. Mr. Gandhi ceases to be the 
sole legal owner of the concern known as the International Printing Press, 
where this journal is printed. Nearly eight years ago we migrated to Phoenix, 
the idea being that the workers might be able to look more to the land for 
their sustenance than to the proceeds of the sale of Indian Opinion and the 

26 



Sponsor or Editor 


advertisements inserted in it. During this period we have not given that 
attention to the land which it was thought we should be able to give, and we 
have certainly not been able to pay our way by means of agriculture. That 
the journal itself has not been self-supporting is a widely known fact. The 
assistance received by it from Mr Tata's gift of 1909 enabled it to tide over a 
crisis in its career. 

16 c We have also come to the conclusion that, consistently with our ideals, we 
could not accept advertisements for paying our way. We believe that the 
system of advertisement is bad in itself, in that it sets up insidious competition, 
to which we are opposed, and often lends itself to misrepresentation on a 
large scale : and that, if we may not use this journal for the purpose of sup- 
porting us entirely, we have no right to cater for and use our time in setting 
up advertisements. We have always used our discrimination and rejected 
many advertisements which we could not conscientiously take. Our friends 
and well-wishers, who have hitherto extended their support to us, will not, 
we hope, take it amiss if we discontinue the practice of inserting advertisements. 
The object of issuing this paper is two-fold: to \oice and work to remove the 
grievances of the British Indians of South Africa, and to do educative work, 
by publishing matter of an elevating character. We hope that our readers will 
appieciate our position, and continue to give us their support, by subscribing 
to the paper. " 

There were more changes in the Gujerati edition of January 
4, 1913. The following information was given to tlie readers : 

“ In this issue readers will notice a few changes. We believe these to be an 
improvement ; we have made them because we thought that, if the journal 
was printed in two columns instead of three, it would look better. It would 
(also) be more convenient if the articles had to be published in book form. 
Our purpose is to publish, from time to time, articles of permanent value 
so that readers who like to preserve copies can later have them bound into 
a volume. It is our intention to continue providing the same (reading) 
matter (as before), but in as short a form as possible. By so doing we will 
be able to fit in more material within the same space or even less. Beginning 
this time, we have reduced the number of Gujerati and English pages, but we 
wish to provide more information, though not more words within these 
pages. It is our hope to reduce the work of the compositor while increasing 
that of the writer. 

“Our venture is more than eight years old. We have published infor- 
mation about rates (and prices) of interest to merchants and have also 
discussed serious topics. Matter varying from four to twenty four pages in 
length has appeared in the Gujerati Section of Indian Opinion . We now hope 
to print, for the most part, writings of two kinds : those which will provide 
the community with full information, in so far as that is possible, of the 
hardships we suffer, and we will (also) consider and suggest remedies; 
secondly, those that deal with an ethic of public conduct or contain, in 
essence thoughts of great men of this problem. We hope that Indian Opinion 
will thus become an instrument of education/' 


27 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 


In the Gujarati edition of the Indian Opinion of December 31, 
1913, the following remarks were made : 

“ Tlie satyagraha campaign, as carried on this time and still continuing, has 
hardly a parallel in history. The real credit for this goes to the Hindi and 
Tamil speaking brothers and sisters living in this country. Their sacrifice has 
been the highest of all. Some of them have even lost their lives : killed by the 
bullets of the white soldiers. As a tribute to their memory, we have decided to 
give Hindi and Tamil news in this paper. Some years ago, we used to bring 
out this paper in these two languages as well, but we had to discontinue the 
practice owing to some difficulties. Those difficulties are not yet over. And 
yet, we resume publication in these languages for the duration of the struggle, 
that being, in our judgment, the least that we must do, even at some inconve- 
nience to ourselves, in honour of communities whose members have made such 
sacrifices In a struggle of this kind. It is not with a commercial motive that we 
are publishing in these languages. Whether or not to continue the practice 
after the struggle is over we can only decide in the light of the circumstances 
then prevailing.” 

Gandhiji left South Africa. The Indian Opinion continued to 
be published. In his absence, it naturally, lost much of its 
weight. 


B. ‘Satyagraha’ and ‘Young India’ 

The Indian Opinion was a weekly paper, publishing news of 
interest from the South African Indian point of view. Journals 
that Gandhiji subsequently edited in India were viewspapers. 
His ideas, social, political or economic, as well as the plan of 
action to achieve those, were now in the process of crystallization. 
He wanted political emancipation first as that would help elevat- 
ing * mass consciousness ’. Masses, once awakened, cannot rest 
till social and economic emancipation is achieved. Gandhiji 
plunged himself in all these activities side by side. For that purpose 
he wanted a proper vehicle to transmit his ideas. As he wrote, 
“ newspaper, if otherwise well edited, can become a most powerful 
vehicle for transmitting pure ideas in a concise manner...”. The 
transformation was already taking place ; from newspaper it was 
going to be, as the new journals he edited showed, a viewspaper. 

This fitted in remarkably with the journalistic trend in India. 
Mrs. Annie Besant’s New India, Maulana Mohamed AH’s 
Weeklies, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad's A I Hilal, Shri Balgan- 
gadhar Tilak's Kesari, Shri Surendra Nath Banerjee’s Banga- 

28 



Sponsor or Editor 

basi, all veered round respective personalities. As M. Bams 
put it : “ In India, from Raja Ram Mohan Roy to Keshub 
Chunder Sen, Gokhale, Tilak, Feroze Shah Mehta, Dadabhai 
Naoroji, Surendranath Banerjea, C. Y. Cintamni, M. K. Gandhi 
and Jawaharlal Nehru, there is a distinguished line of public men 
who have used, and are using, the press as a medium for the dis- 
semination of their ideas of moral values.’" 14 

But with Gandhiji it was much more. The story of his 
viewspapers is the story of Indian struggle for independence. They 
stood for the struggle on behalf of humanity, against the man- 
made bondage. They initiated and nourished a political move- 
ment that upheld moral values. 

When Gandhiji arrived in India on January 9, 1913, journalism 
did not establish itself as a profession, excepting in case of the 
Anglo-Indian Press. Advertisement did not play that important 
part as it plays today. By and large papers had to depend on sales 
promotion and, more important, on monetary help from individuals. 
The Anglo-Indian Press was technically, from production or news 
coverage angle, superior ; but it was not popular with the Indian 
reading public. On the other hand the Indian newspapers were 
popular, but the quality of printing, etc., were not up to the mark. 
Newspapers were printed normally in two sizes — the seven columns 
and five columns. 

Incidentally, in 1913, the Criminal Law Amendment Act was 
passed in India. The First World War started in 1914 and with 
its outbreak, the Defence of India Regulations came into force. 
Both these Acts were, among others, aimed at silencing criticism 
of the Government and stopping any sort of political agitation. 
The Press Association of India, formed in 1915, sub mi tted a memo- 
randum in which it pointed out that by 1917, 22 newspapers were 
asked to furnish security. Of the 22, 18 preferred to close down 
than to submit to the Government orders. Between 1917 and 
1919 coercive action was taken against 963 newspapers and printing 
presses. In addition, 173 new presses and 129 newspapers were 
killed at birth by demand of heavy security. Nearly rupees five 
lakhs were collected by the Government by way of securities and 
forfeitures alone. The Association also pointed out that over 500 

14 Margarita Barns : The Indian Press (George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 
London, 1940), p. xv. 


29 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

publications were proscribed within that period, it added: “The 
total number of orders under the Defence of India Act to which 
presses and papers were subjected for purposes unconnected with 
the pursuit of the war were very large, varied, arbitrary, contra- 
dictory and often ludicrous to a degree.” 13 

On the advice of Shri Gokhale, Gandhiji, after reaching Iridia, 
was touring the country and meeting people but the Indian Opinion 
was very much in his mind. In a letter to Mr. J. B. Petit, Secre- 
tary, South African Indian Fund, on June 16, 1915, Gandhiji 
wrote : “ The Journal Indian Opinion has never been and can 

never be an entirely self-supporting proposition. The English 
portion of it is mainly of an educative character for the European 
public amongst whom it is distributed gratis. It was a powerful 
weapon in the armoury of Passive Resistance and continues to be 
the only recorder of accurately sifted facts about our countrymen 
in South Africa and of Passive Resistance movement. It is in no 
sense a commercial enterprise. ” 

Expenditure of the Indian Opinion was like any other item of the 
Phoenix settlement. In his letter to A. H. West, from Ahmedabad, 
dated August 3, 1915, Gandhiji wrote “ Allocation of £ 3,000 to 
Phoenix settlement includes assistance to Indian Opinion . This 
enables you to report cases of hardship and to help such cases also. 
You may even open a branch office in Durban and collect infor- 
mation about hard cases of immigrants and give them free help, 
you can engage men for reporting cases, etc. The expenses Will be 
justified only as far as you use the paper to attend (to) local 
relief.” 

Gandhiji did not like the price of the Indian Opinion to be reduced 
further. In his letter to Maganlal Gandhi, from Ahmedabad, 
before September 26, 191 5, he wrote “ The price of Indian Opinion 
has been redticed to one penny. It seems he (Chhaganlal) has 
been hasty.” 

Gandhiji was worried over Chhaganlal. In his letter to Mr. A. H. 
West, from Ahmedabad, dated October 31, 1915, he wrote : “ All I 
know is this that you must continue I.O. even if you have to 
labour in the streets and if you burn your boats, so much the 
better. If you cannot, you and your family, so long as you arc at 

15 S. Natarajan : The History of the Press in India (Asia Publishing House, 
Bombay, 1962), pp. 172-173. 

30 



Sponsor or Editor 

Phoenix turning out the paper, will be supported at all costs.” 

Gandhiji was not quite sure whether donations for the Phoenix 
settlement will go towards meeting the expenses of the Indian 
Opinion. It appears there had been some dissentient voices on this. 
In his letter to Mr. A. H. West, from Ahmedabad, December 12, 1916, 
he wrote : “The Committee here will at the most just tolerate the 
withdrawal of funds for sustaining Indian Opinion, and the Public 
there will also look upon such support with strong disfavour. In 
the circumstances, we can only fall back upon local support or 
failing that reduce the paper to any extent we choose. ” 

While quitting South Africa, Gandhiji left the Indian Opinion 
to the able hands of Mr. Polak. But there was no one to look 
after the Gujarati section of the paper aud Gandhiji was approached 
for advice. In 1916, he sent his second son, Shri Manilal Gandhi, 
aged 23, to take charge of the edition and assured him his 
constant guidance from India. He was doing it regularly, even in 
inidst of his ‘ Know India Tours,’ through letters written in 
Gujarati. Here is an extract from one such letter : “ If your 

aim in running the press is to acquire wealth, you will be serving 
your own self interest. If that is not your aim you will he serving 
the public. If you suffer exile with the knowledge that the paper 
your father was conducting was good and that the spirit under- 
lying it has benefited the country, you wifi be rendering a great 
social service.’' 16 

Towards the end of 1917, Mr. A. H. West suggested that the Indian 
Opinion should be shifted from the Phoenix Settlement to Durban. 
In his newsletter of December 10, 1917. Gandhiji wrote to Mr. 
West: “My view is that if you can turn out Indian Opinion only 
by removing to Town, you should suspend publication. I do not 
like tire idea of your competing for jobs or advertisements. I 
think that when that time comes, we shall have outlived our 
purpose.” The next day he wrote to Mr. Govindswami, engineer 
in the Phoenix settlement, about the same question. “Mr. West 
has asked me whether it may not be advisable to shift to Town. 
My answer is in the negative. I would feel deeply hurt if you 
cannot keep up Indian Opinion in Phoenix. In any case yon 
should not remove the works. If you cannot turn out the Paper 

10 The Indian Opinion — Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Number 9 Durban- 
Phoenix, South Africa, March, 1948. 


31 



Mahatma Gandhi- -The Journalist 


in Phoenix, it must be stopped. You should then try to get a 
living from agriculture alone devoting the whole of your time to 
it.” 

Mr. West wired back: “Agriculture impossible. Will you 
lend Sam, myself, jobbing plant, papers, each living Durban? 
Ultimately complete independence. Paper published English. 
Gujarati, Phoenix. Management editorship same time being. 
Cable reply.” 

Gandhiji cabled back on or about February 24, 1918: “You may 
enforce your Plan. Good Luck.” 

In his letter to Mr. A. H. West, July 17, 1919, Gandhiji 
wrote: “Recently I wrote to Mani Lai about Indian Opinion. He 
asked me to supply him with funds or to let him revert to 
advertisements and business printing. I still retain the view I 
held there and the more I see of the jobbery that goes on here, 
the indiscriminate manner in which advertisements are taken, 
the more I think how these advertisements, etc. are nothing but an 
insidious method of indirect voluntary taxation, how all these 
debases journalism and how it makes of it largely a business 
concern, I feel more and more convinced of the rightness of my 
view. Anyway, it would not be proper to blow hot and cold. 
Either you must make Indian Opinion a business concern and then 
not expect the public to take a philanthropic or patriotic interest in 
it, or to make it merely an organ representative of Indian aspira- 
tions in South Africa, and then rely entirely upon public support 
and goodwill. I have dissuaded Mani Lai from making it a 
business concern. I have not sent him there to do business but 
to render public service. I feel that Indian Opinion has served this 
purpose if only partially.” 

In India, Gandhiji was not indulging in much journalistic 
activity. “I was not editing any journal at that time, but I used 
occasionally to ventilate my views through the daily Press.” 17 

He sent the following article for publication in the Gujarati daily 
Hindustan published from Bombay. 

1 promised the Editor a contribution for the Diwsli I Number of Hindustan. 

I find that I have no time to make good the promise, but, thinking that I* 
must write something, I place before the readers my views on newspapers. 
Under pressure of circumstances, I had to work in a newspaper office in 

17 M. K. Gandhi : An Autobiography or The Story of My Experiments with 
Truth, (Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1956), p. 456. 

32 



Sponsor or Editor 

South Africa and this gave me an opportunity to think on the subject. I have 
put into practice all the ideas which I venture to advance here. 

c< In my humble opinion, it is wrong to use a newspaper as a means of 
earning a living. There are certain spheres of work which are of such 
consequence and have such bearing on public welfare that to undertake them 
for earning one's livelihood will defeat the primary aim behind them. When, 
further, a newspaper is treated as a means of making profits, the result is 
likely to be serious malpractices. It is not necessary to prove to those who 
have some experience of journalism that such malpractices do prevail on a 
large scale. 

“ 6 Newspapers are meant primarily to educate the people. They make the 
latter familiar with contemporary history. This is a work of no mean 
responsibility. It is a fact, however, that readers cannot always trust news- 
papers, Often, facts are found to be quite the opposite of what has been 
reported. If newspapers realized that it was their duty to educate the people, 
they could not but wait to check a report before publishing it. It is true 'that, 
often, they have to work under difficult conditions. They have to sift the 
true from the false in but a short time and can only guess at the truth. Even 
then, I am of the opinion that it is better not to publish a report at all if it has 
not been found possible to verify it. 

“ The reporting of speeches in Indian newspapers is generally defective. 
There are very few who can take down a speech verbatim, so that speeches 
are generally found to be a mere hotch-potch. The best thing to do would 
be to send the proofs of the reported speech to the speaker for correction 
and the paper should publish its own report of the speech only if the 
speaker does not correct anything in the proofs sent to him. 

“It is often observed that newspapers publish any matter that they 
have, just to fill in space. This practice is almost universal. It is so in 
the West, too. The reason is that most newspapers have their eye on profits. 
There is no doubt that newspapers have done great service. Their defects 
are therefore overlooked. But, to my mind, they have done no less harm. 
There are newspapers in the West which are so full of trash that it will 
be a sin even to touch them. Many, full of prejudices, create or increase 
ill-will among people. At times they produce bitterness and strife even 
between different families and communities. These newspapers cannot escape 
criticism merely because they serve the people. On the whole, it would 
seem that the existence of newspapers promotes good and evil in equal 
measure. " 

War ended. Instead of Home Rule, India got tlxe Rowlatt Bill. 
The whole country rose against it. Gandhiji was very much in the 
midst of this movement. From a loyal supporter of the British 
Empire, he was emerging as a rebel in the eyes of the English- 
men. 

The Rowlatt Bill, among other things introduced important 
changes in the criminal law of the country. Not only the 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

publication of 6 seditious document 1 but its mere possession was 
made a punishable offence. 

As a protest, an unregistered weekly* the Satyagraha * under the 
editorship of Gandhiji, started publication from April 7, 1919. 
It was to be published on Mondays and the price was one pice. 

The following are the contents of the Satyagrahi* the unregistered 
newspaper, which Mahatma Gandhi issued on Monday in defiance 
of the Indian Press Act: 

(Please read, copy and circulate among friends; and also request them to 
copy and circulate this paper) No. 1. Price : one pice. 

Satyagrahi 

(Editor: Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Laburnum Road, 
Gamdevi, Bombay.) 

Published every Monday at 10 a.m. 

Bombay, 7th April, 1919. 

NOTICE TO SUBSCRIBERS 

** This paper has not been registered according to law. So there can be no 
annual subscription. Nor can it be guaranteed that the paper will be published 
without interruption. The editor is liable at any moment to be arrested by the 
Government and it is impossible to ensure continuity of Publication until India 
is in the happy position of supplying editors enough to take the place of those 
arrested. We shall leave no stone unturned to secure a ceaseless succession of 
editors. 

“ It is not our intention to break for all time the law governing publication 
of newspapers. This paper will, therefore, exist so long only as the Rowlatt 
legislation is not withdrawn/' 

OUR CREDENTIALS 

tv Our credentials arc best supplied by answering the question what will the 
Satyagrahi do ? Satyagrahi has come into being for the sake of ensuring with- 
drawal of the Rowlatt legislation. Tts business, therefore, is to show the people 
ways of bringing about such withdrawal in accordance with the principles of 
satyagraha. The satyagraha pledge requires the signatories to court imprison- 
ment by offering civil disobedience by committing a civil break of certain 
laws. This publication can, therefore, show the best remedy in one way 
and that is by committing civil disobedience in the very act of publishing 
this journal. In other forms of public activity, the speaker is not obliged 
to act as he preaches. The object is to draw attention to this contradiction 
as a fault. It is a method of doing public work. The method of salya- 

* The first issue appeared under the title Satyagrahi . 

34 



Sponsor or Editor 

graha is unique. In it example alone is precept. Therefore, whatever are 
suggested herein will be those that have been tested by personal experience, 
and remedies thus tested will be like well-tried medicine more valuable 
than new. We hope, therefore, that our readers will not hesitate to adopt 
our advice based as it will be on experience." 

NEWS 

“ Yesterday many great events took place : but none was as great as 
that owing to the ceaseless efforts of satyagrahis the mill-hands celebrated the 
National Day by working in their respective mills as they were unable to 
get permission of their employers. ’’ 

Defiance was everywhere — in all spheres. The whole country 
was ablaze. Situation was going out of control of the leaders. In 
the Satyagraha of May <5, 1919, Gandhiji cautioned people, citizens 
of Bombay particularly, to understand fully the significance of 
* hartal ’ before they would observe it to show “ outward evidence 
of their deep affection for Mr. Homiman ”, the fearless editor 
of the Bombay Chronicle , who was forcibly being deported from 
the country. 

Mass upheaval continued and very soon the Jallianwalla Bagh 
massacre took place. Popular violence followed suit. Leaders 
were stunned at this development. Was the rebel editor, Gandhiji, 
inciting the masses ? Was the message of his ‘Satyagraha’ falling 
on deaf ears ? Was the country fully prepared to abide by the 
message of the new ‘ Messiah ’ ? 

Oil April 12, Poet Tagore wrote to Gandhiji : “ I know your 

teaching is to fight against evil by the help of good. But such a 
fight is for heroes and not for men led by impulses of the moment.” 
Gandhiji agreed : “ My error lay in my failure to observe this 

necessary limitation. I had called upon the people to launch upon 
civil disobedience before they had thus qualified themselves for 
it.... ” 

Satyagraha was called off temporarily and Gandhiji launched 
an educating campaign, mostly through leaflets, on the true mean- 
ing of ‘Satyagraha’. But he was soon to utilize a bigger and 
better forum. 

Mr. B. G. Horniman, formerly of the Manchester Guardian and 
the Statesman, and then the editor of the Bombay Chronicle was 
deported to England for his bold writing on the Indian situation. 
Directors of the paper — many of them were now colleagues of 


35 



Mahatma Gandhi — The journalist 

Gandhiji in the political field — approached him with the request 
to take up the editorship. Gandhiji hesitated. Commenting on 
this situation Gandhiji said : “ But the Government came as it 
were to my rescue, for, by its order, the publication of the Chronicle 
had to be suspended.” 18 

Gandhiji was then 50. It was certainly a great honour to edit 
a paper like the Bombay Chronicle. Why was he hesitating ? Was 
it because the responsibility was too heavy ? Or was the personality 
of the veteran journalist Mr. B. G. Horniman creating a complex 
in his sub-conscious mind. ? 

Undoubtedly, he wanted a journal to preach what he believed. 
He got the chance too. 

World War I enriched the Gujarati businessmen. Commercial 
firms, not only in big cities of India but in Africa as well, became 
prosperous, so to say, overnight. They gave Gujaratis a “ new 
sense of power and importance They also soon realized that 
without political power, economic prosperity cannot be sustained. 
“A band of young Gujaratis... started an English weekly. 
Young India : organised the Bombay Branch of Home Rule 
League... carried on an intensive agitation in Bombay and 
Gujarat.” 19 The editorship of the Young India was offered to 
Gandhiji. He agreed and immediately transformed it from a weekly 
to a bi-weekly, to be converted again into a weekly. 

He said in tnis connection : 

“ I was anxious to expound the inner meaning of ‘ Satyagraha ' to the 
public and also hoped that through this effort I should at least be able to do 
justice to the Punjab situation. For, behind all I wrote, there was potential 

* Satyagraha and the Government knew as much. 20 

“By the courtesy of Young India syndicate, composed as it is largely of 

* Satyagrahis since the deportation of Mr. Horniman, I have been per- 
mitted to supervise the duty of the journal. I asked for such supervision .... I 
have hitherto written some leading articles in the usual editorial style .... ” 

The Gujarati monthly, the Navajivan, under the same manage- 
ment, was also placed at his disposal. Writing in Gujarati, in the 
Navajivan Ane Satya Gandhiji wrote in July, 1919 : 

« Ibid, p. 473. 

» K- M. Munshi : Gandhi : The Master (Rajkamal Publications Ltd., 
Delhi, 1948), p. 43. 

20 M. K. Gandhi : An Autobiography or The Story of My Experiments 
with Truth (Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1956), p. 473. 


36 



Sponsor or Editor 

At the time of Horninmn's deportation. Young India , published from 
Bombay in English, was a weekly. Simultaneously with his deportation. The 
(Bombay) Chronicle was put under censorship. 

In the circumstances, the management stopped publication of the 
Chronicle . Thereupon the management of Young India decided to make it 
a bi-weekly, so that it might serve, partly, the purpose which the Chronicle 
had served and entrusted me with supervision of its contents. Though the 
Chronicle has now resumed publication as usual. Young India continues to 
be brought out as a bi-weekly. Some friends posed a question to me whether 
it was not iny duty, seeing that L was burdening myself with the supervision 
of an English paper, to bring out a similar paper in Gujarati. This same 
question had occurred to me. I think I have a service to render to India by 
delivering a message to her. Some ideas I have come by as a result of my 
thinking are such as will advance us towards our welfare. It has ever been my 
endeavour to explain these. I have not succeeded as well as I should have 
liked to for want of ability or time or favourable circumstances. For instance, 
even about satyagraha I see a great deal of misunderstanding prevailing yet. 

I am convinced that I have no gift better than this for India. I have always 
been avid of placing before the people this priceless thing, and several others 
of which I have had ample experience. One powerful modern means for this 
purpose is the newspaper. The founders of Navajivan ane Satya have agreed 
to place it under my supervision and undertaken to secure facilities for its 
publication as a weekly. Shri Indulal Kannaiyalal Yajnik is a busy man in the 
public life of Gujarat. Even so, he has pledged himself to make Navajivan 
his chief concern and help it to the utmost. These circumstances are no 
mere accident. I would be ashamed not to welcome them. And so, though 
my health is not what it used to be a year ago, I have ventured to assume the 
burden of running Navajivan . I seek the blessings of Gujarat in this and invite 
the help of its men of letters in running the paper and of others in ensuring a 
wide circulation for it, and I am perfectly confident that I shall get it. 

Navajivan will be published every Sunday and arrangements have been 
made to see that it is available on the same day at a number of places in 
Gujarat. 

The management has no desire to run the paper for profit. Accordingly, 
it has decided to keep the rate of subscription as low as possible, at 
Rs. 3-S-O a year including postage. This is the very figure which had been 
decided upon for the monthly Navajivan from its July issue onwards, with 
some increase in its size. A copy of Navajivan will be priced at 1 anna 
and the first number will be issued on Sunday, September 7. 

“ The subscription rate mentioned above is regarded as the minimum for 
the reason, mainly, that the weekly will carry no advertisements. I realized 
from my experience of running Indian Opinion in South Africa for many 
years that advertisements bring little profit to the people. Ultimately, they 
are paid for by the public itself, and all sorts of them appear, moral and 
immoral. Fot this reason, Indian Opinion has been running for years without 
parrying any advertisements. For the present, Navajivan will have eight pages 

37 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

of foolscap size. As circulation increases and facilities improve, the size, too, 
will be enlarged. 

“ Those, other than subscribers of the monthly Navajivan who desire to 
enrol themselves as such should send their names to the Manager at Ahmeda- 
bad. I earnestly hope that Navajivan will have a great many subscribers.” 

It was soon converted into a weekly. The Young India was 
brought from Bombay to Ahmedabad where there was the facility 
of a press at the disposal of the editor. The Navajivan first ap- 
peared on October 7, 1919. The Young India followed suit after 
a day. Gandhiji was editor of both and Shri Mahadev Desai and 
Shri Shankerlal Banker were publisher and printer respectively. 
The journals were priced at one anna each. 

Gandhiji soon made his personality felt through the columns of 
the Young India and the Navajivan. The impending change was 
visible from the very beginning. He turned these into his views 
papers. “They enabled me freely to ventilate my views and to 
put heart into the people,” he said. 

In the editorial, ‘ To the Subscribers and the Readers appear- 
ing in the first issue of the Young India under the new editor, Gandhiji 
enunciated the policy of the journal. 

Readers, in this context, may recall that the objective of the 
Indian Opinion, as declared in the paper, was a “ desire to promote 
harmony and good-will between the different sections of the one 
mighty Empire”. But by the time Gandhiji became associated 
with the Young India and the Navajivan, his hopes in British justice, 
in the course of the last sixteen years, were shattered. He was 
becoming more and more conscious of the true nature of the 
colonialism and waspreparing the country to fight injustice with the 

* Satyagraha 5 as he had practised it in South Africa. 

He wrote : 

“ A word as to the policy of Young India. Apart from its duty of drawing 
attention to injustices to individuals, it will devote its attention to constructive 

* Satyagraha ’ as also sometimes cleansing ‘ Satyagraha ’. Cleansing ‘ Satya- 
graha ’ is a civil resistance where resistance becomes a duty to remove 
a persistent and degrading injustice such as the Rowlatt Act.” 

He further told his readers : 

** Young India , from this week, enters upon a new stage. It became a bi- 
weekly when Mr. Homiman was deported and the Chronicle was strangled. 
Ever since the Chronicle’s rebirth, the syndicate and I have been considering 
the advisability of reverting to the weekly issue. The conversion of 
Navajivan into a weekly and its coming under my charge has hastened the 

38 



Sponsor or Editor 

decision. The burden of conducting a bi-weekly and a weekly is too great 
a strain on me and a weekly Young India will now serve almost as well as 
a bi-weekly. The annual subscription will now be Rs. 4 instead of Rsl 8 and 
the price of single copy will be one anna instead of two, without postage.” 

This reduction was at a time when printing materials, imme- 
diately after the war, were difficalt to procure at a reasonable rate. 
Margarita Barns calculated that during the First World War and 
immediately after that, the cost of newsprint alone increased 
seven-fold. 

Incidentally, a year earlier, the Central Publicity Bureau of the 
Government of India, of which the Press Infoimation Bureau is the 
successor today, was formed. An Indian Press party, for the first 
time, was also taken out to the front to get first-hand information 
of the war which was nearing its end. 

The editor had something more to tell his readers. 

“ The editing of Navajivan has been a perfect revelation to me. Whilst 
Young India has little more than 1,200 subscribers, Navajivan has 12,000. The 
number would leap to 20,000 if it would but get printer to print that number. 
It shows that a vernacular newspaper is a felt want. I am proud to think that 
I have numerous readers among farmers and workers. They make India. . , . 
The English journals touch but the fringe of the ocean of India’s population.” 

Gandhiji was, he said, editing the English journal mainly for 
the benefit of his friends in the Madras Presidency. But, he warned, 
“ I will not be a party to editing a newspaper that does not pay 
its way. Young India cannot pay its way unless it has at least 2,500 
paying subscribers.” 

** But Young India... sold more copies than the combined 
totals of several newspapers in India There was not only a new 
thought but a new language in newspaper writing, and what he 
wrote was... finest in journalistic writing,” wrote Mr. A. S. Tyengar, 
the veteran journalist. 21 

At one time the circulation reached the figure of 40,000. What 
was more, Gandhiji’s articles were now freely reproduced in most 
papers in India. Moreover, the Young India and the Navajivan 
were made “ free from the curse of advertisements ”. If his 
journal aimed at the service of the community and the country, 
the countrymen should see that the paper pays its way through. 

The front page article in the same issue, under the title * No 

21 A. S. Iyengar : All Through the Candhian Era (Hind Kitabs Ltd., 
Bombay, 1950), p. 28. 


39 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

Security % gives an insight into the condition of the press during 
these days. 

“ . . . Navajivan when it became a weekly, was subjected to a security 
of Rs. 500. Young India escaped security, because the printer was also the 
keeper of the press where it was published. The press in Bombay was itself 
under security .... Where security makes no difference to a journalist, a 
waiver really enhances his sense of responsibility. So long, therefore, as the 
objectionable features of the Press Act continue to disfigure it, exemption from 
security, whilst it is creditable for the Government, it can hardly be matter fox- 
congratulation for the controllers of any particular organ so exempted.” 

Though Gandhiji was getting more and more involved in Indian 
politics — and within a couple of years he was at the pinnacle of his 
political glory — he found, as he was touring the country, that 
“ freedom lies in the economic and social emancipation of the 
e teeming millions ’ in the country So, in the midst of the political 
turmoil — the Khilafat Agitation and the non-cooperation movement 
— he was, through his masterly editorials, focussing the attention of 
the nation to other equally important problems. Week after week 
he was writing on ‘ Swadeshi \ spinning wheel, Hindu-Muslim 
Unity, non-violence, place of vernaculars, etc. 

At times he was poetic. On July 21, 1920, he wrote about the 
spinning wheel : “Not on the clatter of arms depends the revival 
of her (India's) prosperity and true independence. It depends most 
largely upon re-introduction in every home of the music of the 
spinning wheel. It gives sweeter music and is more profitable 
than the execrable harmonium, concertina and accordion.” 

Lokamanya Tilak passed away on August 1, 1920. Obituary 
written by Gandhiji — and obituaries written by him were unsurpas- 
sed — in the Young India is worth repeating. 

“ .... A giant among men has fallen. The voice of the lion is hushed .... 
His patriotism was a passion with him. He knew no religion but love of his 
countxy. . . . His courage never failed him. His optimism was irrepressible 
.... In the battle for freedom he gave no quarter and asked for none. . . . 

“ It is blasphemy to talk of such a man as dead. The permanent essence of 
him abides with us for ever. Let us erect for the only Lokamanya of India an 
imperishable monument by weaving into our own lives his bravery, his simpli- 
city, his wonderful industry and his love of his country.” 

The August issue of the Young India contained many articles 
which reflected his political thinking in unambiguous terms. Though 
in a whirlwind tour of the country, he always made it a point to 
write for the paper. He would explain his ideas of non-cooperation, 

40 



Sponsor or Editor 

accepted by the Calcutta Congress, to his countrymen patiently 
and persuade them to accept his view-point. 

As an editor of a different character, Gandhiji, whose duty was 
to weigh the opposite point of view, would publish the arguments 
of his critics. In the December 18, 1920, issue of the Young India 
Gandhiji wrote The columns of Young India are open 

to all who have any grievance against non-cooperation.” He was 
giving detailed instructions side by side to non-cooperators. He was 
also replying to some of the criticisms published in other papers. 

Gandhiji, it may be mentioned, did not get the support of the 
press from all over the country. The Independent of Allahabad 
and the Servant of Calcutta were supporting Gandhiji whole- 
heartedly. The Swarajya of Shri T. Prakasham was later published 
in 1922 for propagating his teachings of non-cooperation. But 
the press in Maharashtra were critical. So were the Bengali press, 
particularly the Bengalee and the Nayak. But the most formidable 
was Mrs. Besant, through the columns of the New India. In her 
statement to the Press Laws Committee, more about which later, 
Mrs. Besant said : 

“ Mr. Gandhi in Young India is allowed every week to excite hatred and 
contempt against the Government in language compared with which criticisms 
of Government, that have ruined many papers, are harmless ; he is even 
allowed to approach perilously near high treason by saying that he would, 
in a sense, assist an Afghan invasion of India : papers that one has never heard 
of, wielding little influence have their securities forfeited or heavily enhanced. 
An administration which with flagrant injustice allows the main offender and 
inspirer of hatred, who proclaims * war against Government, ’ speaks of 
‘ paralysing ' it or * pulling it down ', to go scot free, while crushing small 
offenders encouraged by his example, undermines in the community all respect 
for law and the authority of the Government. ... I rejoice that the Govern- 
ment is strong enough to treat Mr. Gandhi’s vapourings with contempt instead 
of bestowing on him the martyrdom he courts. But I urge that a Law not 
enforced against the influential should not be allowed to crush the weak.” 31 

The correspondence between the two great men of the age — 
Mahatma Gandhi and Poet Tagore — is worth reproducing in this 
context. According to the Poet, non-cooperation was a doctrine of 
separatism, exclusiveness, narrowness and negation. According 
to Gandhiji, it was “ a protest against unwitting and unwilling 
participation in evil ”. He would even go a step further and 

aa S. Natarajan : The History of the Press in India (Asia Publishing House, 
Bombay, 1962), pp. 200-201, 


41 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

declare “ non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as coopera- 
tion with good ”. In the Young India dated. June 1, 1921, he wrote, 
“ An India prostrated at the feet of Europe can give no hope to 
humanity. An Tndia awakened and free has a message of peace 
and goodwill to a groaning world.” 

He was careful in correcting newspaper reports likely to create 
misunderstanding between him and the Poet. In the February 9, 
1922, issue of the Young India he mentions a Bombay Chronicle 
news item regarding Gandhiji’s alleged disrespectful remarks about 
‘ Santiniketan ' of Poet Tagore. He was very much pained by that 
report and concluded : “I wish the unknown friend had never 
thought of reporting it. The report does not convey the central 
truth of it.” 

Young Manilal, looking after the Indian Opinion in Phoenix, 
South Africa, would get, from time to time, journalistic advice, 
from Gandhiji. The editor has to be patient and seek for the truth 
only, he advised. Like the famous Joseph Pulitzer, he could say : 
“ Accuracy is to a newspaper what virtue is to a lady ”. His earlier 
acquaintance with Mr. Saunders of the Englishman taught him that: 
“ We win justice quickest by rendering justice to the other party.” 

“ You should write what is the truth in Indian Opinion ; but do 
not be impolite and do not give way to anger. Be moderate in your 
language. If you err, do not hesitate to confess it,” 23 wrote the 
veteran journalist-father to the budding journalist-son. 

But moderation in language is a relative term. There have been 
exchanges of intemperate language — though not from the pen of 
Gandhiji — in the Young India. Shri J. C. Kumarappa narrated 
the following interesting incident : 

“ When I was in editorial charge of Young India , some over-zealous person, 
who was arixious to attain non-violence in a hurry, in his own fashion, in thought, 
word and deed, suggested that my language of criticism was severe and that 
Gandhiji should ask me to tone down. Gandhiji replied with a smile : ‘ Kuma- 
rappa comes from Madras. You must allow for the chillies in his blood.’ 

What a humorous way of easing a situation. This sense of 
humour, which he did not lose till the last day, cleared many a 
tense atmosphere. 

as The Indian Opinion — Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Number (Durban- 
Phoenix, South Africa, March, 1948). 

24 J. C. Kumarappa : Incidents of Gandhiji’s Life , Ed. by Chandrashanker 
Shukla (Vora & Co., Bombay, 1949), p. 142. 

42 



Sponsor or Editor 

The whole country was turned into a prison in 1921. Gandhiji, 
in the Young India would publish, week after week, names of those 
in prison, “ His Majesty’s hotel ”, as he called it. Gandhiji warned : 
“ Starvation, or its alternative canine food, no covering much less 
any worth the name to protect against the severe winter, microbe 
infected, lice-laden blood-stained tatters, the worn-off relics of 
common felons ”, were in store for the patriots courting jail. 

The country was now moving towards a Civil Disobedience 
Movement. Earlier on October 6, 1921, the Young India published 
the manifesto on Freedom of Opinion. The signatories were led by 
Gandhiji, and stated that “ ... it is the inherent right of every 
one to express his opinion without restraint about the propriety of 
citizens offering their services to or remaining in the employ of 
the Government . . . . ” 

In the same issue, under the title ‘ Expression of Opinion 
he wrote: “When in any movement violence is religiously eschewed, 
it becomes a propaganda movement of the purest type. Any 
attempt to crush it is an attempt to crush public opinion, and such 
the present repression has become.” 

He had to agitate on the subject as a number of papers were 
closed because of too heavy security money being demanded by 
the Government. He was pained to see “ The Independent is no 
longer a printed sheet. The Democrat is no more. And now the 
sword has descended upon the Pratap and Kesari .... The 
Bande Mataram, Lalaji’s child, has warded off the blow by deposit- 
ing Rs. 2,000 as security.” 

He further said, “. . . . I believe that an editor who has any- 
thing worth saying and who commands a clientele cannot be 
easily hushed so long as his body is left free. He has delivered 
his finished message as soon as he is put under duress. The Loka- 
manya spoke more eloquently from the Mandalay fortress than 
through the columns of the printed Kesari .” 

He was further suggesting “ a heroic remedy meant for heroic 
times He suggested the publication of hand-written news-sheets. 
He said : “ Let us use the machine and the type whilst we can give 
unfettered expression to our thought. But let us not feel helpless 
when they are taken away from us by a ‘ paternal ’ government 
watching and controlling every combination of types and other 
movements of the printing machine.” To him “the restoration 


43 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 


of free speech, free association and free press is almost the whole 
Swaraj 

Shri Pyarelal, Secretary of Mahatma Gandhi, narrated the 
following incident in this connection : 

** On reaching Allahabad I found that a notice was served upon the Indepen- 
dent demanding security under the Press Act, and the paper had to close down* 
What was to be done next ? We asked for instructions. Back came the reply 
by wire : Run it as a cyclostyle, or even as a hand-written sheet. 

“This was done. Mahadev was arrested a few days later. But the manuscript 
Independent continued with the significant motto, 6 1 change, but 1 cannot 
die’” 25 

Incidentally, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru when he was Law Member 
of the Viceroy’s Council, appointed a committee with himself as 
the Chairman, in 1921, to scrutinize the existing Press Laws. A 
few statements by the editors, as witnesses before the Committee, 
are of great interest as they reveal discriminatory treatment meted 
out to the Press in India. Mrs. Besant, editor of the New India, 
a veteran journalist, said : “ An Anglo-Indian editor in Madras 
was allowed to make the most violent attacks on Indians who 
advocated the reforms that are now Law. But if an Indian paper 
replied to the attack, it found itself accused of exciting hatred. 
A Christian paper attacked the Muslims in an insulting way but 
the Government took no notice, while a Muslim paper was censured 
for attacking Christians.” 

The Sapru Committee found out some more interesting facts 
about the Indian Press of that time. Nine-tenths of the editors in 
Northern India, were semi-educated. The Chairman remarked 
that, “ excepting one or two, they were men with scarcely any 
culture about them ”, 

In the Central Government a Department of Publicity had been 
set up under Dr. Rushbrook Williams on the recommendation of 
Mr. Stanley Reed, who had organized the Government’s wartime 
publicity. Dr. Rushbrook Williams deposed to the Press Laws 
Committee that his work was to keep in touch with editors, and to 
remove misconceptions. “The Department (of Central Bureau 
of rnformation) which for the sake of convenience is a sub-section 
of the Home Department, is really a link between the Government 
and the Press. The most important part of my duties is to examine 
the current Press with the object of finding out topics in which the 

** Illustrated Weekly of India (Bombay, October 20, 1957), p. 25, 


44 



Sponsor or Editor 

public is interested and on which it requires information, and of 
finding out matters in connection with which the action of Govern- 
ment is criticised .... Our duty is then to extract the more 
important of these statements and to bring them to the notice of the 
departments concerned. . . . ” 26 

The Press Laws Committee recommended the repeal of the 1908 
and 1910 Acts, the Amendment of the Registration of the Press 
and Books Act. 

Gandhiji was now pouring out fire through his pen. He felt keenly 
that the alien government had no right to govern. So it was his 
duty, he held, to propagate the so-called sedition. If the articles 
were not seditious enough did it not mean that his pen was weak? 27 

In passing, it may be mentioned that Gandhiji at the helm of 
a flairs in the Indian National Congress, was also in charge of 
publicity for the organization. The Congress Working Committee 
earlier resolved in favour of foreign propaganda during this critical 
period and asked Gandhiji to finally decide on the matter and 
take necessary steps. Gandhiji, in the Young India of March 9, 
1922, expressed his views against publicity abroad. His points were: 
(a) people in the country will be made less self-reliant as they will 
depend on outsiders to help in their struggle ; and ( b ) independent 
interest of other countries about the Indian condition will cease. 
He gave an instance of the Italian newspapers who were showing 
interest in collecting news of their own. He would, as a journalist, 
rather prefer interest being created. He had other objections, too, 
on administrative and organizational grounds. 

The reader will like to compare this situation with the one when 
he, more than once, visited India and England to get the support 
of newspaper editors and public men on the South African question. 
Now he was relying more and more on his and his countrymen’s 
strength. Moreover, he was convinced, that justice, was with 
him. 

The British Government was unwilling to allow any more of this 
stuff in printing. On March 11, 1922, the editor of the Young India 
along with the printer was produced before the court for writing 

26 S. Natarajan : The History of the Press in India (Asia Publishing House, 
Bombay, 1962), p. 201. 

27 B. Pattabhi Sitaramayya : The History of the Indian National Congress, 
Padma Publications, Bombay, 1946), Vol. T, p. 238. 


45 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

seditious articles like ‘ Tampering with Loyalty ’, 4 The Puzzle and 
its Solution and ‘ Shaking the Mane 

Gandhiji was sentenced to six years imprisonment. For two 
years the flow of Gandhiji’s invigorating and inspiring articles in 
the Young India and the Navajivan, were missed. The circulation 
also came down from 21,500 to 3,000. 

How was Gandhiji spending his time in prison? Though a civil 
disobeyer outside, he was a model prisoner abiding punctiliously 
the prison rules. In his letter to Hakim Ajmal Khan, his close 
associate, on April 14, 1922, he gave a glimpse of his life in 
Yeravada prison. 

“ . . . . My cell is in itself, decent, clean and airy. The permission to sleep 
in the open air is a great blessing to me, as I am accustomed to sleeping in the 
open. I rise at four to pray. ... At six I begin my studies. ... At seven in 
the evening, when it is too dark to read, I finish my day’s work. At eight I betake 
myself to rest after the usual * ashram ’ prayer. My studies include the * Koran 
the ‘ Ramayana of Tulsidas ’ ; books about Christianity, excerciscs in Urdu 
and much else. I spend six hours on these literary efforts. ..." 

In prison he read about 150 books on religion, literature, social 
and natural sciences. He read the whole of the Mahdhharata and 
the six systems of Hindu philosophy in Gujarati. He also read 
Binder's Manusmriti and Max Muller’s Upanishads , as also Paul 
Carus’ The Gospel of Buddha, Rhys Davids’ Lectures on Buddhism, 
Amir Ali’s The Spirit of Islam and History of Saracens, Shibli’s 
Life of the Prophet , Dr. Mahomed Ali’s Koran, Dean Farrar's 
Seekers After God , Moulton’s Early Zorastrianism, Henry 
James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience , Hopkin's Origin 
and Evolution of Religions. 

He read Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Bacon’s 
Wisdom of the Ancients , Buckle’s History of Civilisation , James’ 
Our Hellenese Heritage, Kidd’s Social Evolution, Motley’s Rise of 
the Dutch Republic, Wells’ Outline of History, Gcdde’s Evolution 
of Cities, Lecky’s European Morals and Roscberry’s Life of Pitt. 

He also read Goethe’s Faust, Tagore’s Sadhana, Shaw’s Man and 
Superman, and Kipling’s Barrackroom Ballade? 5 

Gandhiji wrote a primer, and a Urdu manual. He intended 
to write in prison, his autobiography. But could not do it. Instead, 
he wrote most of the manuscript of 4 Satyagraha in South Africa 

28 D. G. Tendulkar : Mahatma (V. K. Jhaveri and D. G. Tendulkar, 
Bombay, 1951), Vol. II, p. 147. 

46 



Sponsor or Editor 

After his release in April 1924, he wrote a series of articles in the 
Young India giving details of his prison life. Friends advised him 
to take a few months rest as he was still convalescing from the 
recent appendicitis operation. But he felt that the “ editorial job 
would be for him rather a kind of mental recreation than a task ”. 
It was his channel of communication with his beloved people. He 
appealed from * Juhu’ rest house : “If all my time and energy 
were taken up seeing and entertaining you, it will not be possible 
for me to edit the weeklies in the way I desire.” 

in the first article after release in the Young India , dated April 
3, 1924, under the caption * For the Readers — Past and Present % 
he wrote : “It is not without much hesitation that I resume the 
editorship of Young India. In taking up the editorial control of 
Navajivan and Young India, I am following the Light as far as I 
see it. . . . There will be no new method or policy developed in 
the pages of Young India. 1 hope they will not be stale. Young 
India will be stale when Truth becomes stale.” 

He was not only devoting himself to the editor’s job, but was 
also suggesting others to take up the honourable profession of 
journalism. On September 15, 1924, he wrote to Shri Jawaharlal 
Nehru : “ Why may you not take up remunerative work ? After 
all you must live by the sweat of your brow even though you may 
be under father’s roof. Will you be correspondent to some news- 
papers?” 29 He was thinking on the same lines regarding his son, 
Shri Devadas, whom he earlier introduced to the editor of the 
Times of India. 

As usual he was writing on all subjects not merely politics. Louis 
Fischer remarked : “ Great editor that he was, Gandhi dedicated 
the entire May 29, issue of Young India to his 6,000-word article 
on ‘ Hindu-Moslem Tension, its causes and cure 

The liberty of the Press was constantly in his mind. The Bombay 
Chronicle had to pay a fine for a defamation suit. Under the cap- 
tion ‘ Below the Belt ’, Gandhiji, wrote in the Young India on 
August 7, 1924 : “ The Press law is gone only to be replaced by 
new activities under the laws of sedition and libel .... The 
editor of a daily newspaper when he begins writing his leading 
article does not weigh his words in golden scales. He may be 

28 Jawaharlal Nehru : A Bunch of Old Letters (Asia Publishing House, 
Bombay, 1958), p. 41. 


47 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

betrayed into a hasty word. Must he pay for it even though he 
did it obviously in good faith without malice and in the public 
interest ? These libel actions are calculated to demoralize Indian 
journalism and make public criticism over-cautious and timid. 
I am no lover of irresponsible or unjustifiably strong criticism. 
But the caution to be beneficial must come from within and not 
superimposed from without.” 

He knew when to highlight a matter or ignore it. For example. 
Lord Irwin succeeded Lord Reading as Viceroy on April 1, 1926. 
“ But the fateful change”, records Mr. Louis Fischer, “was not 
mentioned in Young India .” Gandhiji was then busy writing on 
the question of the killing of dogs under the caption ‘ Is this 
humanity ’. 

But his silence on the political changeover was much more 
eloquent. 

Though his Congress Presidential work — he was elected for 
Belgaum Session — exacted much of his time, he was trying to answer 
hundreds of questions through the columns of his paper. Seldom 
did any editor handle such voluminous correspondence. Issues 
of the Young India were then full of questions from readers, both 
from the country and outside. To the editor no question that 
affected man and society, should be treated lightly. The same 
issue, would sometimes carry articles on the economics of 
‘ Charkha ’ or the ideal diet or hydropathy, side by side with the 
most important political problem of the day. A reading of the 
journal, from the title to the printer’s name, would open to the 
reader an enormous world to be explored. 

His advice to his correspondents were human and touching. 
Here is an example quoted from an issue of the Young India of a 
later date. Under the headline * An unnatural father ’, Gandhiji 
reproduced a letter of a young married man who went abroad. 
During his absence, a friend of his got intimate with his wife and 
as a result the wife conceived. His wife was now very repentant. 
The father suggested an abortion. Under the circumstances, the 
young man wanted advice from Gandhiji. 

Gandhiji readily gave it. He suggested that the new born babe 
should be accepted as the man’s child. When the wife is repentant, 
the matter should be forgotten. 

On October 28, 1926, he addressed a note ‘To journalist 


48 



Sponsor or Editor 

friends saying that requests are pouring in asking for his articles 
for publication in other papers. Gandhiji had two alternatives. 
Either to edit the Young India and the Navajivan or to write for 
other papers. He preferred the first course and so stopped writing 
for others. In a modest tone he added : “ My field is very limited 
and even on the subjects I am familiar with, I cannot always be 
original, I have no false notions about the efficacy of my writings.” 

There are instances when he wrote for others. But that was very 
rare and on very special occasions. One such was a signed article 
by him written for the Forward, the paper of Shri C. R. Das, in 
Bengal. The article, an obituary, was published on June 20, 1926, 
under the caption * Long Live Desh Bandhu,’ 

The Press in India were under great difficulties. A number of 
them had to close because of securities demanded. The Forward 
was one such. Under the caption 4 A Brilliant Career,’ Gandhiji 
wrote on May 9, 1929, about the closure of the paper which proved 
a thorn in the side of Government. He concluded “ Forward is 
dead. Long Live Forward 

In June 6, 1929, issue, Gandhiji wrote an editorial under the 
caption ‘ Atrocious ’ wherein he criticized the Government for 
conducting searches in the office of the Modern Review, Calcutta, 
and the residence of the editor. 

In the Young India of January 12, 1928, Gandhiji wrote : 

“ .... I long for freedom from the English yoke. I would pay any price 
for it. I would accept chaos in exchange for it. For the English peace is the 
peace of the grave. Anything would be better than this living death of a whole 
people. This satanic rule has well nigh ruined this fair land materially, morally 
and spiritually. 

“ . . . . My ambition is much higher than independence. Through the 
deliverance of India, I seek to deliver the so-called weaker races of the earth 
from the crushing heels of western exploitation in which England is the greatest 
partner. ...” 

The same year, i.e. 1928, the Young India was publishing Shri 
Jawaharlal Nehru’s articles on Russia. It, incidentally, reflected 
the new spirit that was growing in the country under the leadership 
of Shri Nehru. In 1929 Gandhiji’s name was proposed for the 
Presidentship of the Indian National Congress. He declined and 
suggested the name of Shri Nehru. He wrote : 

“ Older men have had their innings. The battle of the future has to be fought 
by younger men and women. And it is but meet that they are led by one of 
themselves. . . . Pandit Jawaharlal has everything to recommend him. He 


G— 4 


49 



Mahatma Gandhi— The Journalist 

has for years discharged with singular ability and devotion the office of secretary 
of the Congress. By his biavery, determination, application, integrity and 
grit he has captivated the imagination of the youth of the land. He has come 
in touch with labour and the peasantry. His close acquaintance with the Euro- 
pean politics is a great asset in enabling him to assess ours/' 30 

When Shri Jawaharlafs name was accepted, Gandhiji said : 

44 . . . . In bravery he is not to be surpassed. Who can excel him in the 
love of the country ? ‘ He is rash and impetuous/ say some. This quality is an 
additional qualification at the present moment. And if he has the dash and the 
rashness of a wairior, he has also the prudence of a statesman. A lover of dis- 
cipline, he has shown himself to be capable of rigidly submitting to it even where 
it has seemed irksome. He is undoubtedly an extremist thinking far ahead 
of his surroundings. But he is humble and practical enough not to force the 
pace to the breaking point. He is pure as crystal, he is truthful beyond sus- 
picion. He is a knight sans peur et sans reproche . The nation is safe in his hands/’ 

Gandhiji had his problems with fellow journalists as well. On 
August 22, 1929, under the heading * Reporters, a Nuisance " 
he Informs the readers how some reporters have circulated a story 
about his weight being reduced to 80 lbs. and that he was so ill 
that he fainted. This was baseless. He commented : 64 Often 
has my anger against them got the better, for a moment, of my 
non-violence/" He suggested to the agencies that “ they warn their 
reporters that they would be fined or dismissed for repeated offences 
of the character I have described.” 

Independence, as the ultimate goal for the country, was accepted 
by the Lahore Session of the All India Congress in 1929-30. A 
student of Indian Independence movement will be interested to 
know, that Senator Blaine moved a resolution in the U.S. Senate, 
for recognition by the United States, of the Indian Independence. 
It inter alia stated : 

** Whereas the people of India are today spontaneously moving towards the 
adoption of self-government under the constitutional form with popular 
approval, and seeking national independence, therefore, be it resolved that the 
Senate of the United States, mindful of the struggle for independence, that gave 
birth to our republic, participates with the people with deep interest that they 
feel for the success of the people of India in their struggle for liberty and inde- 
pendence/' 31 

Gandhiji was preparing India for the civil disobedience move- 
ment. But he was not quite sure what form it should take. It soon 

30 D. G. Tendulkar ; Mahatma (V. K. Jhaveri and D. G. Tendulkar, 
Bombay, 1951), Vol. II, p. 488. 

31 Ibid., (1952), Vol. Ill, p. 1. 

50 



Sponsor or Editor 

occurred to him that breaking of Salt Tax might be the first item 
under disobedience movement. Salt is consumed by all. Gandhiji 
wrote in the Young India , February 1930 : “ There is no article 
like salt, outside water, by taxing which the State can reach even 
the starving millions, the sick, the maimed and utterly helpless. 
The tax constitutes, therefore, the most inhuman poll tax the 
ingenuity of man can devise.” 

On January 9, in the Young India he wrote would 

far rather be witness to chaos in India . . . than that I should 
daily witness our gilted slavery.” The tone of his writings was 
definitely changing. He started his famous * Dandi march ’ on 
March 1 2, 1 930, to make salt with his own hands from water nature 
had given in plenty. Even at that age of 61, and after fatiguing 
journeys, he would, at the end of the day, write for the Young India . 

The Viceroy promulgated an Ordinance on April 27, reviving 
the Press Act of 1910. On the Press Act, Gandhiji made a statement 
which was published after his arrest, in the Young India of May 8, 
1930 : 

** . . . . Act contains additional provisions making the whole piece more 
deadly than before ... it is a veiled form of Martial law. . . , The pressmen 
if they are worthy representatives of public opinion, will not be frightened by 
the ordinance. Let us realise under the wise dictum of Thoreau that it is difficult 
under the tyrannical rule for honest men to be wealthy. ... I would therefore 
urge pressmen and publishers to refuse to furnish securities and if they are 
called upon to do so, either to cease publication or to challenge the authorities 
to confiscate whatever they like .... They may confiscate type and machi- 
nery, they will confiscate pen and still less speech .... There is hardly a man 
or woman breathing in India who with every breath does not breathe disaffection, 
sedition, disloyalty, and whatever other terms one may use to describe the 
mentality of the nation which has set its mind on destroying the existing system 
of Government.” 

The press responded magnificently. As M. Barns says : “ Never 
before had the press played so important a part in the national 
campaign and enthusiasm was kindled and maintained by the 

vigorous action of the Nationalist newspapers Indeed, all 

the methods which a nationalist press might be expected to use in a 
country at war were employed by the journals supporting the 
movement.” 32 

Government fell upon the press with a heavy cudgel. By July 

88 Margarita Barns : The Indian Press (George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 
London, 1940), p. 373. 


51 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

1930, 67 papers and 55 printing presses were shut down under the 
Press Ordinance. The Manager of the Navajivan Press was 
advised not to pay, if Government demanded, any deposit money. 
Soon the press was forfeited and with it, the printing of the journals 
stopped. The Young India began to appear in cyclostyle form till 
the truce with the Government was signed. 

In prison, Gandhiji had more or less the same programme as during 
the previous term. Every minute at his disposal was properly utilized. 

He wrote a line or two to every inmate of the ashram. Addressing 
the children as ‘ little birds,’ he wrote : 

“ Ordinary birds cannot fly without wings. With wings, of 
course, all can fly. But if you, without wings, will learn how to fly, 
then all your troubles will indeed be at an end. And I will teach you. 
See, I have no wings, yet 1 come flying to you every day in thought. 
Look, here is little Vimla, here is Hari, and here Dharmakumar. 
You also can come flying to me in thought. There is no need of a 
teacher for those who know how to think. The teacher may guide 
us, but he cannot give us the power of thinking. That is latent in 
us. Those who are wise get wise thoughts. ...” His weekly 
letters to other inmates appeared in the Young India and were 
subsequently published in book form — From Yeravada Mandir. 
His other literary activity in prison, was tire translation of the 
hymns from the Upanishads and other Sanskrit scriptures. 

The famous Gandhi-Irwin Pact was signed in 1931. In the notifi- 
cation issued by the Government of India dated March 5, 1931, it 
was agreed that the Civil Disobedience Movement would be stopped. 
“ The publication of News-sheets in support of the Civil Disobe- 
dience Movement ” will be discontinued. On March 6, Gandhiji 
gave an interview to the Pressmen, when the following question 
and answer took place : 

“ Q. Do you intend bringing out Young India again ? 

A. As soon as I can. It all depends on the putting into effect the settlement, 
which implies the return of machinery, etc., which was: confiscated under the 
Press Ordinance. I would certainly be eager to resume the printing of Young 
India. Of course. Young India has continued to be published on a cyclostyle. 
We have suspended the publication of this week's issue to fulfil the terms of 
settlement, which includes the discontinuance of unauthorised news-sheets,” ss 

The paper resumed publication next week. 

** B. Pattabhi Sitaramayya : The History of the Indian National Congress 
(Padma Publications, Bombay, 1946), Vol. I, p. 450. 

52 



Sponsor or Editor 

In the first issue of March 12, 1931, he wrote that it had again 
been possible to resume publication of the Young India ‘ under 
the law.’ ' He informed the readers how typed sheets were brought 
out when the Government put its ban on printing. Thousands of 
copies could be distributed due to ‘ brave and self-sacrificing ’ 
staff of the Young India and the Navajivan. He further added : 
“ I hope that the public will join me in the tangible manner they 
can, namely by patronising Young India and what is more, fulfilling 
the mission for which Young India stands. The readers know that 
Young India and Navajivan do not exist for a commercial purpose. 
They are published for the sole purpose of educating the nation to 
win * purna swaraj ’ through truthful and non-violent means.” 

The objective of the Young India and the Navajivan was to reach 
that goal. His mighty pen was directed for that purpose. Freedom 
did not only mean attaining political independence. It was freedom 
from want and hunger — economic freedom as well. It should further 
aim at social justice. Unless political freedom was attained, equit- 
able justice could not be ensured. 

It will not be out of context to reproduce the following conver- 
sation narrated by Mr. H. C. Perry of the Times of India . 34 

“ This is my son — he wants to be a journalist,” said Mahatma 
Gandhi, as he smilingly introduced young Devadas. . . . ‘ And 
what do you want? ’ I couldn’t resist asking the father. * I want 
my country to be free,’ said Gandhi senior.” 

In August 1931, Gandhiji sailed for England to attend the Round 
Table Conference. Here he came in touch with the newspapers 
which did not conform to his own ideal — papers devoted to truth. 
He became disappointed with the twentieth century journalism. 
To his great dismay he found that newspapers could twist matters 
to suit their convenience. Service to self-interest and not the 
interest of humanity was the prevailing trend. 

Incidentally, in England he met Mr. Charlie Chaplin, the great 
comedian. In the October 8, 193 l,issue of the Young India, Shri M. 
Desai narrates how innocently Gandhiji asked who Mr. Charlie 
Chaplin was. 

On his return to India Gandhiji wrote under * A Retrospect ’ 
(the Young India December 31, 1931) : “ Never since taking up the 

* 4 The Times of India (Bombay, November, 1956). 

53 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

editorship of Young India have I, though not being on a sick bed 
or in a prison, been unable to send something for Young India or 
Navajivan as 1 was during my stay in London .... Fortunately, 
Mahadev Desai was with me and though he too was over- worked, 
he was able to send a full weekly report for Young India." 

Gandhiji was soon arrested on reaching India. 

C. Harijan 

“ .... In view of consideration stated In Mr. Gandhi’s letters 
of October 18th and October 24th. . . in connection with the 
problem of untouchability, they (Government) are removing all 
restrictions on visitors, correspondence and publicity in regard to 
matters which, in Mr. Gandhi’s own words, * have no reference to 
civil disobedience and are strictly limited to removal of untouch- 
ability . . . thus ran the Government order conveyed to 

Gandhiji on November 3, 1932, in prison, where he was detained 
in connection with the Civil Disobedience Movement. 

He was now thinking in terms of a new weekly. It would be 
devoted to the cause of the ‘ Harijans ’ or men of God as Gandhiji 
called the untouchables. He would engage himself fully for eradi- 
cation of this social evil. The wizard was again wielding his pen 
for a great cause. 

In a letter dated January 8, 1933, to Shri G. D. Birla, the indus- 
trialist, Gandhiji wrote have revived my suggestion 

that the English edition at least should be published in Poona, and 
it can be published, not simultaneously with the Hindi, but on 
Fridays, if the Hindi is published on Mondays. The English 
edition may then be issued under my supervision . ...” 35 

The paper Harijan first appeared on February 11, 1933, and was 
priced at one anna. Shri R. V. Sastry became the editor and the 
weekly was published under the auspices of The Servants of Un- 
touchables Society. Ten thousand copies were printed for the 
first issue. 

It carried an English rendering by Poet Tagore of a Bengali 
poem of Shri S. Datta, entitled ‘ Scavenger.' Tagore’s poem on the 
same theme was also published in a subsequent issue of the 

36 G. D. Birla : In the Shadow of the Mahatma (Orient Longmans, 
Bombay, 1953), p. 89. 


54 



Sponsor or Editor 

Harijan. There were news items giving information regarding 
temple opening for 1 Harijans The main editorial was devoted 
exclusively to untouchability. Next there was a column, ‘ To the 
Reader/ in which explaining the importance of the newly launched 
movement, Gandhiji said, “ since the movement has a world- wide 
significance and seeks the sympathy, if possible, of the whole 
humanity, it is necessary to keep the world acquainted with its 
implications and progress The paper, he made it clear, would 
be devoted for the service of * Harijans ' and would highlight all 
efforts for the removal of untouchability. 

“ You will note,” he commented, “ that no advertisements are 
being taken for the upkeep of the paper. It has to depend solely 
upon the subscriptions received.” The page ended with a notice 
to the subscribers reminding them that “ subscriptions should be 
paid strictly in advance.” 

In a signed article in the Harijan dated February 25, 1933, 
Gandhiji explained that the Hindi edition was to be published 
first. But as there was delay, the English came out earlier. “I am 
happy to be able to inform the reader that the Hindi edition will 
have been out before this is in his hands. Arrangements are pro- 
ceeding as fast as possible for the publication of provincial editions 
in the provincial languages e.g. in Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, 
Guzrati etc.” 

Explaining the term ‘ Harijan Gandhiji wrote : 

“ It is not a name of my own coming. Some years ago, several ‘ untouchable ’ 
correspondents complained that I used the word ‘ asprishya ’ in the pages of 
the Navajivan. * Asprishya * means literally untouchable. I then invited them 
to suggest a better name, and one of the untouchable correspondents suggested 
the adoption of the name ‘ Harijan % on the strength of its having been used 
by the first poet-saint of Guzrat. ... I thought that it was a good word. 

‘ Harijan ’ means a man of God. All the religions of the world describe God 
pre-eminently as the Friend of the friendless. Help of the helpless, and Pro- 
tector of the weak. The rest of the world apart, in India, who can be more 
friendless, helpless or weaker than the forty million or more Hindus, who are 
classified as untouchables. ..." 

Gandhiji was. conducting the paper from the prison in Poona. 
He was released on May 8, 1933. On May 13, he wrote : 
“ All should know that even though I am supposed to be a free man, 
Harijan will continue to be edited as if I was in prison. It will still 
be solely devoted to the ‘ Harijan ’ cause and will scrupulously 
exclude all politics.” 


55 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

He was again taken to prison, but was given the facility, by the 
Government, of sending instructions or contributions to the Harijan 
editor three times a week. He was released on August 23. 

In September 1933, Gandhiji moved to the Wardha Ashram f 
and devoted himself more and more to the ‘ Harijan ’ cause. 
Though still weak, he would contribute regularly to the journal. 
He reiterated: “ Harijan will remain what it has been ever since its 
inception. It will rigorously eschew all politics.'” 

The Harijan became the mouth-piece for the 6 Harijan ’ movement 
and village industries. There were criticisms for this. Gandhiji 
explained (Harijan, December 21, 1924): “ . . . . Any problem 
connected with the welfare of villages as a whole must be intimately 
related to the 4 Harijans,’ who represent over a sixth part of India's 
population. Those who complained of monotony were perhaps 
not sufficiently interested in the cause. No doubt it would be 
true criticism, if I were told that the columns of Harijan were not 
as interesting as they might be made. There are causes for this 
which are inherent in the movement itself." 

Again he was demonstrating, if it at all needed, that service should 
be the motto of journalism. He was serving the cause of India’s 
teeming millions. It was much more. He was serving humanity. 

There was a complete black-out of important political news of 
the day in the Harijan. It made no mention of the Congress session, 
nor of his retirement from politics. The Government of India Act 
which got Royal assent in 1935, did not have any place in the journal. 
On the other hand there were more and more articles on village- 
made ‘ gur,’ hand-pound rice, village cleanliness, nutritious 
food, cow’s milk vs. buffalo’s, from waste to wealth through night 
soil, etc. 

He started village reconstruction work, particularly the revival 
of cottage industries, in nearby villages. Scientific facts were made 
known on importance of honey, fresh vegetables, tamarind, etc. 
There were researches on nutrition and balanced diet. Snakes 
were divided into poisonous and non-poisonous ones and treat- 
ments for snake bites were explained. Village sanitation was vigo- 
rously publicized. 

Books on rural problems were reviewed. Useful extracts from 
books were published for the benefit of all. To enlighten the rural 
workers, rural uplift programmes in other countries were narrated. 

'56 



Sponsor or Editor 

Wardha, like c Sriniketan ’ of Poet Tagore, soon became a labo- 
ratory for rural work. 

Anything indigenous or country-made was worthy of recom- 
mendation. He gave a letter of appreciation — a very rare one — to 
a barber. It was dated November 25, 1939, c Anand JBhavan,’ 
Allahabad. He wrote: <fi Munnilal has given me a fine shave with 
devotion. His razor is country-made and he shaves without soap." 

In a leading article in the Harijan , Gandhiji, in a simple lucid 
style, spoke about the rural development programme in a village, 
Anantpur is a little village in Saugar district, C.P., containing 177 houses 
with a population, roughly, of 885. It has no post office or telegraph office. 
There is a weekly service from the nearest post office, Relly, twelve miles from 
Anantpur. It is a typically poor village of poor India. The villagers are occupied 
not more than four months in the year. There was hardly any supplementary 
occupation for the villagers as a whole before an event that happened four years 
ago. . . . 

“ It was in 1929 that a young man, with a single-minded zeal seldom sur- 
passed, chose Anantpur for his experiment, after one year's travelling in search 
of such a village. . . . His name is Jathalal Govindjee. He does not know 
English. He is no Gujarati scholar. Himself a town-bred man, by dogged 
pertinacity he has inured himself to the hardships of village life and lives like, 
and in the midst of, villagers. He has three companions with him. He is a 
thorough believer in one thing at a time and, therefore, will not pursue other 
social service, no matter how tempting it may be. If the spinning wheel is well 
established in every cottage, he thinks that all other problems that puzzle and 
drag down villagers will solve themselves. They visit every cottage and offer 
to teach them ginning, spinning, carding, weaving and dyeing. They improve 
their wheels and manufacture new ones for sale only from the material available 
in the village. This has given extra work to the village carpenter and the village 
blacksmith. Every item is well thought out. They have an almost complete 
record of the condition of every cottage and also its dwellers. They have made a 
fairly accurate study of the villagers’ wants and woes, customs and manners, 
and they have published their report in Hindi. Their workshop is a busy hive. 
Work is being done in a neat and methodical manner. A common log-book is 
kept containing a day-to-day summary of the work done by each worker. I 
have mentioned only four foundation workers. Needless to say they have raised 
workers in seventeen villages they are now serving within a five-mile radius of 
Anantpur. . . . ° 

Anantpur was a ‘ Harijan ’ village. Anything connected with 
6 Harijan ’ was getting due publicity. Sometimes, he would go to 
the farthest to espouse the cause of 6 Harijans \ The earthquake 
of 1934, he said, was due to the sin of caste Hindus against untouch- 
ables, This brought a sharp rejoinder from Poet Tagore. 


57 



Mahatma Gandhi— The Journalist 

‘It has caused me a painful surprise ”, wrote the poet, “ to find Mahatma 
Gandhi accusing those who blindly follow theii own social custom of untouch- 
ability, of having brought down God’s vengeance upon certain parts of Bihar, 
evidently specially selected for His desolating displeasure. It is all the more 
unfortunate, because this kind of unscientific view of phenomena is too readily 
accepted by a large section of our countrymen. I keenly feel the indignity of it, 
when I am compelled to utter a truism in asserting tnat physical catastrophies 
have their inevitable and exclusive origin in certain combination of physical 
facts. Unless we believe in the inexorableness of the universal law in the working 
of which God Himself never interferes, we find it impossible to justify His ways 
on an occasion like the one which has sorely stricken us in an overwhelming 
manner and scale.” 

Following an interview with Mrs. Sanger, he devoted a few 
articles on family planning. He advocated self-restraint against 
contraceptives. “ What has been possible for you is not possible 
for all young men. I can restrain myself. But my wife cannot,” 
read a frank letter to the editor. The editor advised : “ If he is 
sincerely desirous that his wife should be weaned from the sexual 
desires, let him surround her with the purest love, let him explain 
the law to her, let him explain the physical effects of union without 
the desire for procreation, let him tell her what the vital fluid 
means.” 

It is of interest to note that while in England as a student, Gandhiji 
had not formulated definite ideas against artificial means for birth 
control. This was manifest when Dr. Allinson, who advocated 
artificial methods, stood for election for the committee of the 
Vegetarian Society. Dr. Allinson lost the election because of his 
views on birth control. Gandhiji resigned from the committee. 
“ It is to be noted that he himself became a vigorous opponent, in 
later years, of artificial methods of birth-control, advocating self- 
control and continence.” 36 

For a brief period, in 1936, he was not writing for the Harijan , 
due to ill-health. On February 29, he resumed writing. Under the 
title ‘Nothing Without Grace,’ he wrote: 

“ I am now able, by way of trial, to resume to a limited extent my talks with 
the readers of Harijan. I shall not carry on private correspondence with refer- 
ence to the correspondents’ personal problems or domestic difficulties, except 
those with which I have already concerned myself, and I shall not accept public 
engagements or attend or speak at the public gatherings. There are positive 
directions about sleep, recreation, exercise and food, with which the reader 

" H. S. L. Polak, H. N. Brailsford and Lord Pethick-Lawrence : Mahatma 
Gandhi (Odhams Press Ltd., London, 1949), p. 15. 

58 



Sponsor or Editor 

is not concerned and with which, therefore, I need not deal. I hope that the 
readers of Harijan and correspondents will cooperate with me and Mahadev 
Desai, who has in the first instance to attend to all correspondence, in the obser- 
vance of these restrictions.” 

In the September 24, 1938, issue of the Harijan, Gandhiji wrote : 
“ . ... Harijan is not a newspaper, it is a viewspaper representing 
those of one man. Even Mahadev and Pyarelal may not write 
anything whilst I am alive.” 

He sought the indulgence of readers and correspondents if they 
were not served in time or at all. “ For the time being — whilst 
Mahadev’s illness lasts, readers will overlook the gaps they will 
notice in the editing of the Harijan .” Much later in the July 15, 
1942, issue, he explained further as to how a viewspaper differs 
from a newspaper. “ Let it be known too that Harijan is a views- 
paper as distinguished from a newspaper. People buy and read 
it not for amusement but instructions and regulating their daily 
conduct. They literally take their weekly lessons in non-violence.” 

As a protest against the British Government’s action involving 
India in war without consulting her, Gandhiji started ‘ individual 
Satyagraha ’ by asking people * na ek pai, na ek bhai ’ (not a 
farthing, nor a man) for the war efforts. On October 18, 1939, the 
editor of the Harijan and allied weeklies received a notice to the 
effect that “ no account of incidents leading up to ‘ Satyagraha ’ 
by Shri Vinoba Bhave and no aspect of his speeches or any 
subsequent development ” should be given publicity to. 

On October 24, he wrote in the Harijan : “ I cannot function 
freely if I have to send to the Press Adviser at New Delhi every 
line I write about ‘ Satyagraha The three weeklies have been 
conducted in the interest of truth and therefore, of all parties 
concerned. But I cannot serve that interest if the editing has to 
be done under threat of prosecution. Liberty of the Press is a 
dear privilege .... I am unable to reconcile myself to the notice 
which, although in the nature of advice, is in reality an order whose 
infringement will carry its own consequence.” 

But he was all the time feeling that he might have to suspend 
the weeklies. He advised the people to carry the news from mouth 
to mouth. He blessed these ‘ walking newspapers ’ and thought 
these more honourable than * garbled, one-sided ’ news-sheet. 

* Bidding goodbye ’ to the readers (the Harijan, November 


59 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

10, 1938) Gandhiji sorrowfully remarked : “ I shall misa my 
weekly talks with you, as I expect you, too, will miss them. . . 
The suspension must, therefore, continue while the gagging 
lasts .... It constitutes a Satyagrahi’s respectful protest against 
the gag.” 

In mid-December, 1941, he wrote a 25-page booklet ‘ Construct- 
ive Programme.’ Now that the Harijan was suspended, it filled 
the gap to some extent. The Harijan and the other two weeklies 
resumed publication on January 18, 1942. 

But things were not normal in the Press world. Government 
restrictions were being increasingly imposed on papers. As a 
journalist, he criticized, under the caption ‘ Draconian Order ’ 
government instructions against the Bombay Sentinel, the Jugantar 
of Bengal, and the Pratap of Punjab in the Harijan of May 3, 1942. 
The Central Press Advisory Committee had earlier passed a resolu- 
tion “ viewing with grave concern the action of the three Pro- 
vincial Governments, namely those of Bombay, Bengal and the 
Punjab against three daily papers.” This was, it said : “A viola- 
tion of the spirit of the agreement ” between the Government and 
the Press. Gandhiji opined that the Press regulations were of such 
sweeping character that anything and everything could be brought 
under their operations. 

By the time the article was sent to the Press, Government orders 
in case of the Bombay Sentinel and the Jugantar were rescinded. 

But said Gandhiji: “ What I have said has reference to the larger 
question of publication of news and the Standing Committee 
should take up a strong stand on the liberty of the Press to dissemi- 
nate news in a sober and as far as possible accurate manner.” 

India was watching over a rapid succession of political events in 
the world — after Pearl Harbour — culminating in the British 
Government’s proposal, through Sir Stafford Cripps. Gandhiji 
was now convinced that the British would not leave India of their 
own. He started with his writings in the Harijan, pleading with the 
British to leave India, ‘ Quit India.’ There was urgency and passion 
in his writings. In his appeal ‘ To every Briton,' he begged “ for a 
bloodless end of an unnatural domination and for a new era, 
even though there may be protests and wailings from some of us.” 
(The Harijan, May 11, 1942). 

Correspondents made enquiries whether Gandhiji was making 


60 



Sponsor or Editor 

plans for launching a new movement. He said to them : 

“ I have never believed in secrecy, nor do I do so now. There are certainly 
many plans floating in my brain. But just now, I merely allow them to float 
in my brain. My first task is to educate the public mind in India and the 
world opinion, in so far as I am allowed to do so. And when I have finished 
that process to my satisfaction, I may have to do something. That something 
may be very big, if the Congress is with me and the people are with me. Naturally, 
I do want to carry the whole of the Congress with me if I can, as I want to carry 
the whole of India with me. For, my conception of freedom is no narrow con- 
ception. It is co-extensive with the freedom of man in all his majesty. I shall, 
therefore, take no step without the fullest deliberation." 37 

Gandhiji was also keeping the American public informed about 
the state of affairs in India. To Preston Gover of the Associated 
Press of America , he said, “ 1 have every right to expect America 
to throw her full weight on the side of justice, if she is convinced 
of the justice of the Indian cause. 5 * 

Gandhiji, it may be mentioned in passing, had been criticized, 
justly or unjustly, by his countrymen, for showing weakness for 
foreign journalists. Many of his important announcements were 
released through international news agencies. Much later, in the 
Harijan of April 21, 1942, he explained the position. 

46 An Indian journalist complains that our great men have a weakness for 
foreign journalists to the extent of excluding Indians at their Press conferences, 
and wonders whether I am myself free from this weakness. For myself, I can 
say, without fear of contradiction that I have never been guilty of such partial- 
ity. Having suffered a good deal for the crime of being an Asiatic, I am not 
likely to be guilty of such weakness. And I must say that I know of no such 
example as my friend adverts to, if only because public men can ill afford to 
face a boycott by Indian Pressmen. What has happened with me and, so far as I 
am aware, with others too is that they and I have found it necessary at times to 
give special interviews to foreign journalists when it has been found necessary 
in the interest of the common cause to get messages across the seas. It is 
impossible in the present circumstance to do otherwise. It would be as foolish 
to invite a boycott by foreign journalists and by Indian. An industrious person 
will find out that Indian journalists have been preferred by Indian public men 
again for the sake of the common cause. As a fellow journalist I would urge jour- 
nalists, whether Indian or foreign to prefer their particular causes to their own 
or their employer’s pockets or to descending to recriminations or personalities." 

In July 19, 1942, issue of the Harijan , Gandhiji wrote : 

“ Anxious enquiries are being made as to what I would do if the Harijan 
was suppressed. ... I would ask the enquirers not to be agitated if Harijan 
is suppressed. The Harijan may be suppressed, its message cannot be, so long 

37 D. G. Tendulkar : Mahatma (V. K. Jhaveri and D. G. Tendulkar, 
Bombay, 1953), Vol. VI, p. 3. 


61 



Mahatma Gandhi— The journalist 

as I live. Indeed, the spirit will survive the dissolution of the body and somehow 
soeak through the millions. . . . 

“ Let us see what Harijan is today. It is now published in English, Hindi, 
Urdu (two places), Tamil, Telugu (two places), Oriya, Marathi, Gujarati, 
Kanarese (two places). It is ready to be published in Bengali, only waiting for 
legal permission. Applications have come from Assam, Kerala, Sind. All but 
one have a large circulation compared to the other weeklies. I suggest that it is 
no small matter to suppress such a paper. The loss will be more Government's 
than the people's. They will incur much ill-will by suppressing a popular paper." 

“ And Harijan ” he cautioned, “ is not an anti-British paper. It is pro-British 
from head to feet. It wishes well to British people. It tells them in the friend- 
liest manner where in its opinion they err." 

The Anglo-Indian papers, I know, are Government favourites. They repre- 
sent a dying imperialism. Whether Britain wins or loses, imperialism has to die. 
It is certainly of no use now to the British people whatever it may have been 
in the past. In that sense, therefore, Anglo-Indian papers are really anti-British 
as Harijan is pro-British. They are disseminating hatred day by day by hiding 
the reality and bolstering imperialism which is mining Britain. It is in order to 
arrest the progress of that ruin that, frail as I am, I have put my whole soul into 
a movement which, if it is designed to free India from the imperial yoke, is equally 
intended to contribute the mightiest war effort in their behalf." 

Gandhijfs slogan of ‘ Quit India ’ was followed by his call 
‘ Do or Die 9 for the country. He told the delegates to the Congress 
Committee in Bombay in the first week of August, 1942 : “ Here 
is a mantra, a short one, that I give you. You. may imprint it on 
your hearts and let every breath of yours give expression to it. 
The 4 mantra * is c Do or Die." We shall either free Tndia or die 
in the attempt ; we shall not live to see the perpetration of our 
slavery. Every true Congressman or woman will join the struggle 
with an inflexible determination not to remain alive to see the 
country in bondage and slavery. Let that be your pledge 

There was a special request to fellow journalists. 

“ .... A word to the journalists. I congratulate you on the support you 
have hitherto given to the national demand. I know the restrictions and handi- 
caps under which you have to labour. But I would now ask you to snap the 
chains that bind you. It should be the proud privilege of the newspapers to lead 
and set an example in laying down one's life for freedom. You have the pen 
which the Government can't suppress. I know you have large properties in 
the form of printing-presses, etc., and you would be afraid lest the Government 
should attach them. I do not ask you to invite an attachment of the printing- 
press voluntarily. For myself, I would not suppress my pen, even if the press 
was to be attached. As you know my press was attached in the past and returned 
later on. But I do not ask from you that final sacrifice. I suggest a middle way. 
You should now wind up your standing committee, and you may declare that 

62 



Sponsor or Editor 

you will give up writing under the present restrictions and take up the pen only 
when India has won her freedom. You may tell Sir Frederick Puckle that he 
can’t expect from you a command performance that his press notes are full of 
untruth, and that you will refuse to publish them. You will openly declare that 
you are whole-heartedly with the Congress. If you do this, you will have changed 
the atmosphere before the fight actually begins.” 

He appealed, as well, to princes, to Government servants, to 
soldiers, to students with the request to help the struggle. But Shri 
H. Mukherjee, Deputy Leader of the Communist Party in the Indian 
Parliament criticizes : “ No particular role was allotted to the 
workers and the peasants, and though they formed the over- 
whelming majority of the people they were expected simply to line 
up in the manner directed by their superiors. The priority given to 
journalists in Gandhi’s order of appeal is perhaps not entirely 
accidental : the Mahatma, with all his great courage and occa- 
sional sublimity, had throughout his life a shrewd eye to publicity 
whatever he thought or did.” 38 

Gandhiji was arrested on August 8, 1942. The Harijan was 
closed down and all copies, old and new, confiscated by the Govern- 
ment. When Gandhiji asked for an explanation from the Govern- 
ment of Bombay, he was informed that : “ The Government 
instructed the District Magistrate, Ahmedabad, to destroy all 
objectionable literature from Navajiwan Press such as the old copies 
of the Harijan newspapers, books, leaflets and other miscellaneous 
papers. . . . All the old files of Harijan since 1933 have been 
destroyed.” 39 

Prison life this time, was eventful and tragic. He lost his Private 
Secretary, Shri Mahadev Desai, who was more than a son to him. 
His wife Kasturbai, breathed her last on February 22, 1944. On 
inquiry from the Government, Gandhiji expressed his wishes with 
regard to Kasturbai’s funeral rites ; 

“Her body should be handed over to my sons and relatives which would 
mean a public funeral without interference from Government. If that is not 
possible, the funeral should take place as in the case of Mahadev Desai and if 
the Government will allow relatives only to be present at the funeral, I shall not 
be able to accept the privilege, unless all friends, who are as good as relatives 
to me, are also allowed to be present. 

** Hiren Mukherjee : Gandhiji — A Study (National Book Agency Pvt. 
Ltd., Calcutta, 1958), p. 149. 

s * D. G. Tendulkar : Mahatma (V. K. Jhaveri and D. G. Tendulkar, 
Bombay, 1953), Vol. VI, pp. 228-229. 


€3 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

“ If this also is not acceptable to the Government, then those who have been 
allowed to visit her will be sent away by me and only those who are in the 
camp — detenus — will attend the funeral. 

4 ‘ This has been, as you will be able to bear witness, my great anxiety not to 
make any political capital out of this most trying illness of my life companion. 
But I have always wanted whatever the Government did to be done with good 
grace, which 1 am afraid, has been hitherto lacking. It is not too much to expect 
that now that the patient is no more, whatever the Government decide about 
the funeral will be done with good grace.” 40 

Gandh.ij i was released on May 6, 1944, and the Harijan was 
revived on February 10, 1946, after a lapse of three and a half 
years. Shri Pyarelal, Gandhiji’s Secretary, described events leading 
to the reappearance of the journal thus : 

4 ‘ While in Madras Gandhiji decided to resume publication of the Harijan 
weeklies which had been suppressed after the commencement of the ‘Quit India’ 
struggle. The re-appearance was not without a dramatic touch. Gandhiji had 
hoped to post at Wardha the matter for the first issue to Ahmedabad, from 
where the weeklies were printed and published. It had been Gandhiji' s pride 
that during half- a- century of active Journalism, not one issue of his various 
journals had ever failed to come out on time — even when he was roaming over 
the length and breadth of India, Burma and Ceylon, and even during his visit 
to England. But the special bringing him back from Madras, to quote a speaker 
in the Central Assembly, who compared it to a 4 drunken caterpillar in the last 
stage of inebriety % reached its destination at midnight, seven hours late, when 
the mail bound for Ahmedabad had already left Wardha. Gandhiji regarded 
it as a bad beginning. 6 Let us get the first issue of the weeklies struck in Bombay/ 
he suggested. 6 1 once did like that in Phoenix in the case of the Indian Opinion / 

4 But what about despatch? The subscribers' registers are all at Ahmedabad/ 

4 Let us wire the whole thing to Ahmedabad/ some one suggested. 

44 But the whole Hindustani and Gujarati copy would have to be transcribed 
in Roman script as the system of accepting telegrams in Indian scripts had not 
yet been introduced. That took up the better part of the morning. Then some- 
one had a brain wave. 4 Send the English articles by wire and the rest by a 
special messenger. If they can be through with the English earlier, the press will 
be able to catch up with the vernacular copy/ 

“ And so, a special messenger was despatched and all the three weeklies 
came out on time after all the misadventures/' 41 

In the first issue, Gandhiji explained the reason for the revival 
of the Harijan . 64 Why is Harijan revived ? This question may have 
occurred to many as it has to me. T may tell the reader that no 

40 Ibid., p. 296. 

41 Pyarelal : Mahatma Gandhi — The Last Phase (Navajivan Publishing 
House, Ahmedabad, 1956), Vol. I, pp. 165-166. 

64 



Sponsor or Editor 

special effort was made for its revival. An application for the 
removal of the ban was made on December 3, 1945, and the ban was 
removed on January 10, 1946. Many readers, including English and 
American, had all along felt a void and they began to feel it more 
after the defeat of the Fascist Powers. The reason for the feeling was 
obvious. They wanted my reaction, in terms of Truth and Non- 
violence, to the various events happening in India, if not in the 
world. I wished to satisfy this desire.” 

And again in February 24, 1946, issue he wrote : 

“ I have taken up Harijan at such a critical moment in our country’s history 
that having undertaken to write I cannot wait in certain matters for publishing 
my thoughts till the next number of Harijan is out. Then, too, it is published 
not at the place where I reside but away from me. Thus exacting readers will 
forgive me if they find things in the columns of Harijan which have already been 
printed in the daily press. The reason for publication is obvious. Harijan 
goes to many readers who do not read the papers in which my statements may 
be published and in which accurate publicity can never be guaranteed. Harijan 
is not a commercial concern in any meaning of the expression. It is published 
purely in the interest of the cause of India’s independence.” 

The next few issues of the Harijan were entirely taken up in 
discussing the food situation in the country. It was alarming and 
he felt that his attention should now be concentrated on this. He 
asked the Government — what he called a ‘ peace time war effort ’ — 
to engage the army and the navy in helping the production from 
land and water. He advised people to shake off inertia. He asked 
for the co-operation of all concerned to meet the calamity and said, 
“ Grow more food was not a bad cry during the war. It is a greater 
necessity now. . . . Everything possible should be done to draw 
water from the bowels of the earth. . . . Cloth famine can and 
ought to be averted by telling the millions to spin and weave in their 
own villages, the State supplying them with cotton, where it is not 
grown or available, and with the simple instruments of production 
on hire or on long term purchase.” 

The Private Secretary to the Viceroy met the rebel and non- 
cooperator and the latter emphasized the need for closest co-opera- 
tion in the face of the impending crisis. He suggested “ . . . . Food 
should be grown on all cultivable areas, wherever water is or is 
made available. The flower gardens should be used for growing 
food crops. . . . All ceremonial functions should be stopped. 
Women can play the highest part in the alleviation of the present 

65 


G — 5 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

distress by economising in their households. In nine-tenths of our 
activity, we can manage our daily affairs without the aid of the 
Government. . . . Panic must be avoided at all costs. We must 
refuse to die before death actually takes toll. ...” 

He also requested people to “ confine daily wants regarding 
food to the minimum.” He asked city people to depend more on 
milk, vegetable, oil and fruit so that the grains and pulses could be 
used by the villagers. 

Some people criticized when Gandhiji suggested catching of 
fish to supplement food. “ Does it not entail violence?” Gandhiji 
admitted that it does. “ This kind of violence is inherent in all 
embodied life, therefore, in man too. . . . The man who coerces 
another not to eat fish commits more violence than he who eats 
it. ... I do not consider it violence to permit the fish eater to 
eat fish. It is my duty to suffer it. Ahimsa is the highest duty. 
Even if we cannot practise it in full, we must try to understand 
its spirit and refrain as far as is humanly possible from violence.” 

Great political changes were in the offing. Independence of the 
country could be announced any time. But Gandhiji was busy 
with his own programme. He came to Bengal to tour round the 
villages, where, like in some other parts of India, Hindu-Muslim 
religious tension was continuing. He found his non-violence 
theory at stake and wanted to test it in Bengal’s interior villages. 
He decided to stop all work in connection with the Harijan and 
other weeklies. Time permitting he agreed to send occasional 
contributions for the weeklies. 

He came back to Delhi in April 1947. His mind was full of tales 
of woe of what he saw or heard in Bengal. He cautioned the news- 
papers against misleading news. He even went to the extent of 
advising people not to read newspapers. 

On June 2, 1947, Gandhiji wrote in the Harijan : 

“ Readers must have noticed that last week I started writing for the Harijan. 
How long I shall be able to continue it, I do not know. God's will be done in 
this, as in other things . . . the circumstances under which I had stopped 
writing for the Harijan have not altered. Pyarelalji is fax away from me and, 
in my opinion, is doing very important work in NoakhalL He is taking part 
in what I have called the ‘ maha yagna '. Most of the other helpers are also 
unable to help under the stress of circumstances or other causes. To resume 
writing for the Harijan under these adverse conditions would be ordinarily 
considered madness. ..." 


456 



Sponsor or Editor 

There were communal disturbances at places. The newspapers, 
he felt, were through irresponsible reporting, helping in creating 
panic. They were not at all serving the community. On the other 
hand. Government was trying to suppress information. He did not 
like that either. On March 20, 1947, he wrote to the Prime Minister, 
Shri Nehru : “I would like you. .- . to tell me what you can 
about the Punjab tragedy. I know nothing about it save what is 
allowed to appear in the Press which I thoroughly distrust. Nor 
am I in sympathy with what may be termed by the old expression 
of * hush hush policy. ’ It is amazing how the country is adopting 
almost the very measures which it criticised during British ad mini- 
stration. Of course, I know the reason behind it. It makes no appeal 
to me.” 

India was divided and the communal frenzy was at its height. 
Pakistan Press was exaggerating reports of riots. One such was 
regarding Kathiawad. Gandhiji sent his workers to investigate the 
matter. It was found out that reports were mostly false. The local 
Muslim leaders admitted, through a wire to Gandhiji, that there had 
been much exaggeration about communal riots. Gandhiji nar- 
rated this in his prayer meeting on December 5, 1947. “ The proper 
thing,” he said, “ is to trust truth to conquer untruth.” Later on, 
in his prayer speech, he gave a practical suggestion as to how to 
report on communal disturbances and avoid exaggeration. There 
should, he said, be a joint board to which all reports about com- 
munal troubles would be submitted for scrutiny. The board, if 
necessary, may refer such cases to State Ministers before giving 
publicity. 42 

For sometime past he was thinking of closing down the Harijan. 
In a letter to Sardar Vallabhai Patel, in July 1947, he wrote : 
“ .... I also feel that Harijan should now be closed. It does not 
seem to me to be right. to give contrary guidance to the country.” 
He was sick at heart when he did not see eye to eye with the acti- 
vities of some of his colleagues. 

To the Manager of the Harijan, he wrote : “ Perhaps we may 
have to decide to close Harijan. . . . My mind rebels against 
many things that our leaders are doing. Yet I do not feel like 
actively opposing them. But how can I avoid it if I am running a 

41 D. G. Tendulkar : Mahatma (V. K. Jhaveri and D. G. Tendulkar, 
Bombay, 1954), Vol. VIII, p. 61. 


67 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

paper ? You do not want to run it without me, nor docs the 

Sardar ’ ” 

Addressing the readers of the Harijan , Gandhiji said : “ It 
occurs to me that now that freedom from the British rule has come, 
the Harijan papers are no longer wanted.” He was for the last few 
months contributing, on an average, only one and a half columns 
for a week. The columns of the paper were filled with his prayer 
speeches. This, to him, was “ hardly satisfactory.” He, therefore, 
asked his readers’ frank opinion as to the need of the publication. 

Some correspondents wanted him to retire and close down the 
weeklies. “ I detect anger in this advice .... My life line is cast in 
public service. 1 have not attained the state which is known as 
* action in inaction ’. My activity, therefore, seems at present 
to be destined, to continue till the last breath. Nor is it capable of 
being divided into watertight compartments. The root of all lies 
in Truth, otherwise known to me as Non-violence. Hence the papers 
must continue as they are. * One step enough for me Thus he 
wrote in the Harijan of September 28, 1947. 

Under the caption ‘ My Duty,' he summarized the replies 
and wrote in the Harijan : “ A fair number of replies have been 
received in answer to my query. The majority of the readers, with 
only a few exceptions, want the papers to be continued. The pur- 
pose of these letters is that the readers desire my views on the present 
day topics. This means that, probably, after my death, these will 
no longer be required.” 

Soon Gandhiji had to go to Noakhali, now in East Pakistan, 
on a peace mission, to restore confidence among the Hindus who 
lost lives and properties at the hands of the Muslims. The charge 
of the Harijan was temporarily vested in two of his colleagues. 
They soon resigned. In spite of the heavy burden, Gandhiji was 
prepared to take up the full responsibility provided the Trustees 
agreed. Earlier they expunged some of his remarks in a prayer 
meeting from the text reproduced in the Harijan. He wrote to one 
of the Trustees : “ 1 fully realise Harijan does not belong to me. 
It really belongs to you who are conducting it with such diligence. 
Whatever authority I exercise is moral.” 43 

■ It reads like a pathetic confession from one who not only built 

** Pyarelal : Mahatma Gandhi — The Last Phase (Navajivan Publishing 
House, Ahmedabad, 1956), Vol. I, pp. 598-599. 

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Sponsor or Editor 

up the morale of the people through his writings but led the nation 
to Independence. The colleagues in whom he had explicit faith, 
followers whom he made national leaders, people whom he made 
ministers were, on many occasions disagreeing with him on funda- 
mental issues on which he felt his theories were based and his life 
principle dedicated. He was noticing the change and silently with- 
drew from the active field. 

Gandhiji came to Delhi in May, 1947, and resumed writing for 
the Harijan, after a lapse of over six months. He wrote till the end, 
which came on January 30, 1948. He was killed by an assassin’s 
bullet while going to conduct a prayer meeting in Delhi. The frail 
voice which moved and inspired millions of people stopped 
suddenly. 

The next issue of the Harijan dated February 3, 1948 carried a 
photograph of Gandhiji on the front page. In a signed editorial — 
‘Out of the Ashes’ — Dr. Rajendra Prasad, later elected President 
of the Republic of India, wrote : 

“ Mahatma Gandhi is no more in flesh and blood to speak to us, to console 
us, to guide us. But did he not tell us often that the body is mortal and transient, 
that the ‘ atma ’ alone is immortal and imperishable ? Did he not tell us that 
God would keep his body so long as He had any use for it ? May be that his 
spirit freed from the limitations of the body will work all the more freely and 
create instruments to complete and fulfil what remains unaccomplished. May 
be that out of the ashes on the banks of the Jamuna will arise forces that will 
blow off all the mist and cloud of misunderstanding and distrust and establish 
the kind of peace and harmony for which he lived and worked and alas ! at 
last victim to the assassin’s bullet. ...” 

“ My life is my message,” said Gandhiji. The life was gone ; 
so how messages could be poured through the columns of the 
Harijan ? The Journal announced the following item on Feb- 
ruary 15, 1948, under the signature of C. Rajagopalachari, the 
then Governor-General of India. 

“ The Harijan was Bapu’s voice. And when his body has been consigned 
to the elements, the Harijan cannot go on. Any attempt to continue it must 
take a different shape.” 

It continued for some time. But the journal ceased publication 
soon. 


69 



3 


Running the Desk 


“The post card is now finished and slipped into the basket. Again he turns 
to the khadi stationery case. It is evidently an article that he is going to write, 
because he extracts a number of odd sheets, with writing on one side, but 
unused on the other. These are his * pusti * sheets, carefully collected from the 
blank pages on the backs of letters and other communications which come in 
endless numbers by each post. Bapu begins to write. The article seems to be of 
a serious nature, probably on some burning problem of the day, for a concen- 
trated, even stern, look appears on his countenance. Before the article is finished 
he begins to feel sleepy. The pen is laid in the stand, and the tiny tin top is placed 
on the balm bottle. The * pusti ' sheets are carefully put on one side, and Bapu 
turns and lies down on his gaddL He removes his glasses, places them by the 
side of his pillow, and in one or two minutes he is fast asleep, and breathing as 
peacefully as a little child/’ 1 

Thus described Miss Mirabehn, the editor of the Young India 
and the Harijan running the desk. 

In his book Seven Months with Mahatma Gandhi Shri Krishnadas 
gave another pen picture of the editor, in a different setting : 

44 As I found Mahatmaji looking grave at all times, I rarely went to him 
unless sent for. I suppose he assumed this seriousness in order to get through 
his work. 

44 Once or twice, I had even seen him cooling his forehead and head with ice. 
And yet everyday, whether in his room or in the train, he would go on calmly 
and patiently writing articles for the Navajivan and the Young India , while all 
round him people were making noise and the crowds were howling outside. 
Such complete mastery over the mind seemed to me unique. When he had done 
with the report of the Sasaram speech, he took up that of his Gauhati speech, 
but put it by, having looked through it a little/' 2 

Unfortunately nobody has recorded a graphic picture of Gandhiji 

1 Mirabehn : Incidents of Gandhiji* & Life, Ed. by Chandrashankar Shukla, 
(Vora Sc Co., Bombay, 1949), pp. 186-187. 

* Krishnadas ; Seven Months with Mahatma Gandhi (S. Ganesan & Co., 
Madras, 1928), p. 34. 

70 



Running the Desk 

while editing the Indian Opinion in South Africa. Whatever titbits 
we get, are from his own writing or passing references made by 
Mr. Henry Polak. But we can visualize a short and thin man, 
dressed in European attire, sitting on a chair, busily jotting down 
notes for publication in the next issue of the Indian Opinion. 
To Shri Chhaganlal, he wrote on October 26, 1906, from 
London : 

“ I have not a moment to spare. It is now 8-30 p.m. and I have 
not touched the Gujarati letter. If I can, I want to give you one 
leading article and one correspondence letter in continuation of 
what I have sent you already.” 

Gandhiji as we had seen, would insist on objective writing. As 
model, he had before him the example of the Times , London, 
as it used to be published in his student days. Gandhiji who started 
reading newspapers only in England, had a strong liking for the 
way the Times was edited. It was moderate in tone, accurate in 
presentation of news. 

Mr. Henry Polak recalled many incidents showing Gandhiji’s 
high standard of responsibility while running the Indian Opinion. 
“ He was always exact in his facts and he would never magnify his 
case for the sake of argument.” 3 

Once Mr. Polak commented vehemently “ and somewhat 
acidly ” on certain reports, appearing in other papers, relating to 
the Indian community in South Africa. Gandhiji advised him, to 
quote Mr. Polak, “ ... it would be much better for me, as a 
matter of professional self-discipline, and would have more desir- 
able results for the cause of what we were both seeking to serve, 
if I were to model my style rather upon the moderation and objec- 
tiveness of the London Times than upon the more picturesque if 
less accurate ways of the * cheaper,’ press. ” And Mr. Polak fol- 
lowed his advice. 

He would, in turn, not hesitate to accept good advice from his 
colleagues. “ I remember telling him once, with mock editorial 
gravity, that I could not send his * copy ’ to the printer unless he 
rewrote it, which he did with due humility and with an amused 
twinkle in his eye, ” recalled Mr. Polak. Gandhiji had not yet 
acquired that commendable command over English which he 

8 H. S. L. Polak : Incidents of Gandhiji’s Life, Ed. by Chandrashankar Shukla, 
(Vora & Co., Bombay, 1949), p. 236. 


71 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

developed in later years. Nor did lie develop that news sense in 
that early period of his journalistic life. 

But from the very beginning he was against stunt in journalism. 
He hated false or exaggerated reports. He abhorred discourtesy 
in writing. In an editorial note captioned ‘ Journalistic Courtesy ’ 
in the Indian Opinion of November 3, 1906, he criticized the Natal 
Advertiser saying : “ There are times when mockery is permissible, 
when one is desirous of defeating another’s argument, but there 
can never be an excuse for vulgarity. We fear very much that our 
contemporary has overstepped the limits of journalistic courtesy 
in what purports to be a reply to our article on ‘ Durban and its 
unemployed ’ published in the issue of the journal of 20th 
ultimo.” 

Under an unsigned short note — ‘ What is journalism ? ’ — 
the Indian Opinion of January 19, 1907, wrote : “ The Natal Adver- 
tiser continues to bestow attention upon us, even if it be at times 
without acknowledgment. We have read with great pain our con- 
temporary’s remarks on Mr. Janies Godfrey’s address to the 
London Indian Society. We have always necessitated that the 
one true test of journalism is that it gives facts to the public. We are 
constrained to say that our contemporary ignominiously failed in 
conforming to the first days in the article we have referred to.” The 
short note then gives facts about the case. 

Under the sub-heading ‘ Back-door Journalism,’ the Indian 
Opinion of February 2, 1907, criticized the paper, the Natal Witness, 
for misrepresentation of facts which inter alia said : “ Without 
the Act practically no restrictions would have existed upon the 
back-door competition of the Arab Trade.” 

Again on February 9, 1907, the Indian Opinion, under the sub- 
heading ‘ Journalism of a Sort ’ wrote : “ Last week I called 
my readers’ attention to the back-door methods of the Witness. 
This week the Ladysmith Gdzette has made itself conspicuous. 
It refers to the Indian Opinion as being ‘ one of the mouth-pieces of 
nasty, cheap, coloured labour of Natal.’ This seems to show that 
the editor does not read this journal or else he would have seen, 
on 29th December last, a leading article advocating repatriation of 
Indian indentured labourers and offering its cooperation in the 
matter. But I suppose we must not expect an editor to read a 
journal which he vilifies.” 

70 

• <*/ 



Running the Desk 

During Mr. Henry Polak’s visit to India, in 1909-10, Gandhiji 
wrote : “ Keep your standards right. Everything else will follow.” 

To his son Shri Manilal, Gandhiji wrote, as mentioned earlier, 
“ You should write what is the truth in Indian Opinion What is 
truth in journalism ? How does it differ from accuracy ? Are they 
the same thing ? Truth is not only a question of knowledge. It 
means more. It means the balancing of judgment in a most dis- 
interested manner. It may be achieved in a weekly ; but it is very 
difficult to be truthful in the daily newspaper. When we consider 
the condition in which it is produced, the number of agencies 
through which the news passes, and the speed with which it is 
gathered from all parts of the world, translated, transmitted, 
selected, sub-edited, and printed. 

“ Further, it is dependent on the time factor. In the hustle of a 
daily newspaper with a pull of conflicting interests always present 
and the necessity of pleasing a wide public never out of mind, 
truth in the sense of careful and balanced presentation can only 
with luck, and occasionally, emerge. Even the most highly trained 
and best informed journalist must be conscious as he writes that 
his thought and knowledge are not sufficiently mature and that 
had he not been writing to the habitual length and pattern of the 
particular publication, he might not have taken just precisely the 
view he did take. Whether his article is a report of complex 
events or an editorial comment on the significance of these events, 
to test it only by the accuracy of the facts it contains is to show an 
abysmal ignorance of the art of journalism. Any practised jour- 
nalist can write a column which contains no single mis-statement of 
fact and which is yet a damned lie from the first word to the last. 
Similarly, incidental inaccuracies in fact or expression may occur 
in an article by an honest reporter or editorial writer who, with 
the sweat of his brow, attempts to reach the truth by a careful 
balancing of the fact and vigorous expression of his convictions.” 4 

This is no apology for incorrect news or views. This is a point of 
view arising out of peculiar circumstances caused by the vast tech- 
nological improvement which has completely revolutionized news- 
paper and turned it into a big commercial proposition. 

In one of the unauthorised leaflets of the Satyagraha published 

4 Kingsley Martin : The Press the Public Wants (The Hogarth. Press, London, 
1947), p. 114. 


73 



Mahatma Gandhi ■ — The Journalist 

between April 16 and April 28, 1919, Gandhiji wrote about the 
poems that were attributed to him. He denied his authorship. 
“ My writings cannot be poisonous, they must be free from 
anger. . . . There can be no room for untruth in my writings. . . . 
My writings cannot but be free from hatred towards an indivi- 
dual ” 

Gandhiji, as an editor, would correct himself publicly if he 
found that some untruth had crept in his writings. To cite a 
typical example, he compared the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, 
immediately after the First World War, to that of Glenco. A 
correspondent drew his attention saying that the latter was much 
more horrible. In the next issue of the Young India , Gandhiji 
corrected the statement. 

Mr. Jack C. Winslow narrated a similar incident during his first 
visit to Gandhiji as arranged by Mr. C. F. Andrews : “ One cha- 
racteristic incident of that visit remains with me. Charlie and I 
had left Bapu lying on the verandah, and Charlie was telling me 
about an article he had just written for the Manchester Guardian 
about the Satyagraha movement then in progress in Travancore. 
In glowing terms he had described how all eyes were now concen- 
trated on this wonderful movement and no one was interested 
any longer in the proposed Government reforms. ‘ I will just go 
and show it to Bapu,’ said Charlie, * before I send it off ! ’ Pre- 
sently he returned, thoroughly crest-fallen. What did Bapu think 
of it ? I asked. * Oh, ’ said Charlie, Bapu said : * Charlie, it is 
what you would like to be true : but it isn’t true.’ With all Bapu’s 
idealism went a strong strain of realism, which Charlie Andrews 
sometimes lacked.” 6 

Why are papers chary to the idea of correcting mistakes or 
publishing protests against misrepresentations ? A man can be 
misrepresented, his ideas may be twisted. He has to read such 
reports every day and cannot do anything unless he takes legal 
action against this deliberate action. It is even difficult to persuade 
a paper voluntarily to print even a letter of protest or correction. 

The reason is psychological. No human being would like admit- 
ting himself in the wrong. Partly it is due to the papers’ belief that 
today and tomorrow are news, but yesterday is history. They do 

* Chandrashankar Shukla (Ed.) : Reminiscences of Gandhiji (Vora & Co., 
Bombay, 1951), p. 217. 

74 



Running the Desk 

not want to pin-point attention to old news, particularly if it was 
inaccurate. They desire to like their readers to assume that they are 
infallible. And often they get the desired result. To Gandhiji 
correction had a different meaning. In the Harijan of January 16, 
1937, he wrote : “ I know there are readers of Harijan who study 
many articles that appear from time to time in Harijan. The 
weekly is not published for providing momentary amusement or 
pleasure for the reader. It is designed to be a serious contribution 
to the Harijan cause in the widest sense of the term. It, therefore, 
often contains writings of more than transitory value. Hence serious 
errors need to be corrected. Such an error was detected in the 
Harijan of the 9th inst. at page 383, 2nd Column, line 2. Read 
sub-human ’ for * human ” 

Though he was well conversed with the subject he was writing 
about, he would invariably check the information. “ Gandhiji 
loved beauty of language too and always appreciated a well- written 
article or letter. He was meticulous where his weekly articles for 
the Harijan were concerned. They were always given in the first 
instance to one of us to read and suggest any verbal or other 
amendments, and then finally edited by himself before being sent 
to the press.”* 

He would also try to guess the public reaction, whether that would 
hurt the feelings of the people. “I always aimed at establishing 
an intimate and clean bond between the editor and the readers, ” 
said he. He would not allow unfair criticism to be published 
in his journal. That, to him, constituted violence. He would not 
attack even when he was hit below the belt. Mrs. Annie Besant, 
in her journal the New India, for weeks, wrote slanderous articles 
against him. She went, as we saw, to the extent of advising the 
Government to arrest Gandhiji and stop his seditious activities 
once for all. In reply, Gandhiji did not say or write anything. 

The British Press was at its worst critical mood so far as Gandhiji 
and Indian National Congress were concerned, during the period 
Gandhiji was in England, attending the Round Table Conference. 
The well-known British journalist, Mr. Solocombe, represented 
Gandhiji as prostrating himself before the Prince of Wales. 

“ Mr. Solocombe, ” Gandhiji only remarked, “ this does not 
do any credit to your imagination. I would bend the knee before 

• Illustrated Weekly of India (Bombay, October 20, 1957). 


75 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

the poorest scavenger . . . much less before the Prince of Wales, 
for the simple reason that he represented insolent might.” 7 

He was called a ‘ simpleton.’ Truth, to which he tried to clinch, 
was dismissed as humbug. British papers were full of indecent 
cartoons of Gandhiji. 

“ I referred to the vicious attacks upon him in certain of the 
London newspapers and expressed the hope that they did not 
trouble him unduly. ‘ No,’ he said, * they do not trouble me, 
but they pain me terribly. Think of how fully and freely 1 have 
talked to the reporters. I have told them everything. And yet they 
print these slanderous lies. It hurts me that such things can be done.’ 

‘ But,’ he continued with a smile, ‘ I don’t let them worry me. 
They do not harm! Nothing can injure truth.’ ” s 

But he was disappointed in British journals. The Times , London, 
could no more serve as his ideal. 

He was always ready to weigh opposition points of view. Here 
is a typical example of his approach to controversial topics. 

Under the caption ‘ No and yes,’ he wrote in the Young India : 
“ Comrade Saklatwala is dreadfully in earnest. His sincerity is 
transparent. His sacrifices are great. His passion for the poor is 
unquestioned. I have, therefore, given his fervent appeal that 
close attention which that of a sincere patriot and humanitarian 
must command. But in spite of all my desire to say £ yes ’ to his 
appeal, I must say ‘ no ’ if 1 am to return sincerity for sincerity and 
if I am to act according to my faith.” 

“ On occasions, Gandhiji wrote to individual editors, some- 
times acknowledging the weight of a point in criticism and at other 
times explaining his point of view in great detail with an earnestness 
which clearly showed his anxiety to remove misunderstanding 
rather than silence criticism.” 9 

Gandhiji thus won over, even the hostile press. He encouraged 
the editors to express their views freely. Through his weeklies he 
would argue with them if they opposed his views on non-coopera- 

7 C. Rajagopalachari and J. C. Kumarappa (Ed.) : The Nation’s Voice (Nava- 
jivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1947), p. 116. 

* John Haynes Holmes : My Gandhi (George Alleh ■& Unwin Ltd., London, 
1954), p. 44. 

9 India Government : Report of the Press Commission , Part H, Comp, by 
J. Natarajan (Manager of ■ Publications, Delhi, 1954), p. 155, 

76 



Running the Desk 

tioru “ The variety of subjects he touched on quickened public 
discussion and as he always struck an unusual note, the arguments 
had a perennial interest. 1 ’ 10 

Another great quality of Gandhiji, the editor, was his direct 
and forthright manner in conveying things. Direct presentation 
was the beauty of all his writings. He had a clear thinking and 
knew well what he was going to say. He would put forth his ideas 
and arguments in crisp short sentences, pregnant with meaning. 
From the Indian Opinion to the Harijan was a long way and we dis- 
cover with the passing of each year a mature journalist in him. 

t£ ‘Who wrote these two articles,’ asked Gandhiji, pointing out the editorials 
from the latest issue of the Young India when Shri Prabhu, the de facto editor 
of the journal went to hand over the charge. 

" He signified his preference for one ; the other he criticised. Giving his 
reasons he said : 

6 In the first, you have said all that you wanted to say in a direct mannei', 
while the writer of the second article indulges in all sorts of innuendoes and says 
things which he does not really mean.’ 

c When you want to say a thing, don’t beat about the bush, don’t indulge in 
euphemisms and pin-pricks, but tell it in a straight-forward way,’ he advised.” 

But he was in a devastating mood when he wrote the following 
letter to a young journalist on June 7, 1919 : 

" It is dangerous to call me 'Revered Father’ as you will see presently. I 
have no doubt about your prodigality. The very slovenliness of your writing 
is eloquent proof of it and it certainly requires a prodigal son to write to his 
adopted ‘Revered Father' a letter containing almost as many corrections as 
there are lines in it written anyhow and unrevised. A son frugal in his 
adjectives, obedient in reality, would write to his father, especially when he is 
deliberately adopted, a careful letter written in his best handwriting. If he 
has not enough time, he will write only a line, but he would write it neatly. 

Your article on Mr. Jamnadas was ill-conceived and hurriedly written. 
It could not be printed in Young India, nor is it worth printing in any other 
paper. You will not leform Jamnadas by letters of that character, nor will you 
benefit the public thereby. Your second article is not much better. . . . You 
really lose yourself in the exuberance of your own verbosity. If you will 
give more attention to the thought than a mere lengthening out of your 
story, you will produce readable matter . . . . ” 

Shri Krishnadas narrated the following incident : 1X 

"Today being Monday, Mahatmaji's day of silence, I have to be constantly 
by his side ; but as 1 had to write the article I could not spend much time with 

10 Ibid., p. 203. 

11 Krishnadas : Seven Months with Mahatma Gandhi (S. Ganesan & Co., 
Madras, 1928), p. 115. 


77 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

him. At three in the afternoon he sent for me through Devadas. He had given 
me a second Urdu message concerning the Moplah rebellion from the pen of 
Maulana Azad Sobani to translate into English. Knowing, as I did, that he had 
not been particularly impressed by the Maulana's first message on the same 
subject, I had not yet taken up the second. When I said that, he wrote down 
for me the words, ‘ Just condense the whole into a single paragraph/ This I 
did. I wanted also to explain my article 6 Under Swaraj as I had written, as 
also a note on the arrest of Shri Sengupta of Chittagong. He looked through 
them and wrote the following remarks : * Under Swaraj is shaping itself all 
right ; you should finish it. The Chittagong note is not bright enough, and is 
somewhat censorious/ I explained that it was my intention to complete * Under 
Swaraj ' with one more paragraph. He wrote in reply, 6 As it is, it does not read 
complete, or as if it is ending with two or three sentences — but try/ I said 
that I was under the impression that the article was growing too long, and I had 
therefore thought fit to cut it short. But now I would write rather elaborately. 
Mahatmaji nodded assent/' 

Shri Sri Prakasa, a colleague of Gandhiji, was sent to Jodhpur, 
much later in 1942, to collect first-hand information of certain 
happenings over there. He visited the place, met people and 
prepared a statement which was submitted to Gandhiji. The rest 
may be put through the pen of Shri Sri Prakasa. 

“ Within this period of my stay at Sevagram, Monday, the day of keeping 
silence, came on which he would speak to nobody. Same day he devoted in 
writing articles for the Harijan. After reading my report, he prepared a brief 
for the Harijan and sent it to me for checking whether he had not missed any 
point. I remember that my type-written report was spread into 14 or 15 sheets, 
of foolscap size from which he had prepared the brief for the Harijan in only 
half a column. I was surprised how he had put in all the facts contained in my 
long report in a few lines. I read his brief several times but I could not say 
that he had missed any of the points presented by me in the report.” 18 

“ As was his wont, he would write a great deal for the Harijan. Anything 
written by someone else was published in that paper only after being closely 
scrutinised by him." 13 

Shri A. S. Iyengar recalled Gandhiji’s deep consideration for the 
press. He went through all the reports of the All India Congress 
Co mm ittee proceedings and would make necessary changes in each 
copy submitted. “ As for the corrections he made in the copy, 
I must say that they were very vital and essential, revealing his 
superior knowledge of editing including grammar and punctuation, 

13 Sri Prakasa : The Navabharat Times : Sunday Supplement (Delhi, June 2, 
1963). 

13 Rajendra Prasad : At the feet of Mahatma Gandhi (Hind Kitabs, Bombay, 
1955), pp. 238-239. 

78 



Running the Desk 

and all this he did whilst the proceedings were on, and whilst he 
was thinking out his own speech.” 14 
On October 20, 1921, after the prayers, Gandhiji said : 

“When lately all sorts of rumours of my arrest were in the air, I expressed 
the wish that the publication of Young India should be suspended. But since 
then (and even so recently as the day before yesterday), many friends have 
approached me and given me their assurance that there was no need to worry 
over Navajivan and Young India and that they would be able to conduct both 
in a manner worthy of their past, during my absence in gaol. I am not particular 
about Navajivan, but my belief is that it would not be easy to preserve the style 
and individuality of Young India . But the thing may be possible if I can give 
the necessary training to people from now. For this I have chosen Pyarelal 
and ICrishnadas. Every one of us here in the Ashram should think it his duty 
to become responsible for, and specialise in, some particular work/' 15 
Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, writing in the Harijan of April 11, 1948, 
after Gandhiji’s death mentioned : 

“ To those of us who had the privilege of working with Gandhiji every week 
when the Harijan was being edited by him, it seems strange to be writing for its 
columns without submitting the same to the searching gage of that prince of 
journalists. The care and thought he bestowed on whatever he himself wrote, 
the eagle eye with which he vetted every word of what even a man like Mahadev 
Desai wrote, his insistence on right expression, on the adherence to the truth 
where facts were concerned, on the necessity of not using one word more than 
necessary, his appreciation of a good literary style, his ruthless weeding out of 
much or wholesale discarding of what one thought was good, all these are 
never-to-bc forgotten lessons. But the remembrance of them makes one pause 
and wonder whether any one of our poor efforts can ever come up to the high 
standard of journalism which was one of Gandhiji's incomparable contri- 
bution to public life. ..." 

No subject was big for Gandhiji’s editorial : none was too small* 
Louis Fischer, the celebrated journalist, said that Gandhiji would 
attach equal importance to a letter written to President Roosevelt 
as much to an article on the subject of rape. 

Gandhiji was very much laconic in speech. He seldom used a 
superfluous word. Each comma or colon conveyed something or 
the other. Moreover, his expression was much less than his pro- 
found thinking on the subject. It was like an iceberg, nine-tenth 
beneath the water and only one-tenth above. He had suggestions 
to give on each item published in the journal. Everything he wrote 

14 A. S. Iyengar : All Through the Gandhian Era (Hind Kitabs Ltd., Bombay, 
1950), p. 98. 

15 Krishnadas : Seven Months with Mahatma Gandhi (S. Ganesan & Co., 
Madras, 1928), p. 108. 


79 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

was with a purpose. He never jotted a line for mere writing’s sake. 

In preaching an ideal, Gandhiji would go deeper in the matter. 
He would suggest living up to the principle enunciated. In the May 
13, 1939, issue of the Harijan, he wrote : “ The propagation of 
truth and non-violence can be done less by books than by actually 
living those principles. I do not say that we may not issue books 
and newspapers ... we must make a sincere effort to enter into 
his mind and to understand his view-point . . . without that book 
and newspaper propaganda is of no avail.” 

It was more. It was a self-educative process. The Editor has 
much more responsibility in conducting a viewspaper. He wrote 
in the Young India of July 2, 1925: 

“ I have taken up Journalism not for its sake but merely as an aid to what I 
have conceived to be my mission in life. My mission is to teach by example 
and precept under severe restraint the use of matchless weapon of ‘ Satyagraha ' 
which is a direct corollary of non-violence and truth. I am anxious, indeed I 
am impatient, to demonstrate that there is no remedy for the many ills of life 
save that of non-violence. It is a solvent strong enough to melt the stoniest 
heart. To be true to my faith, therefore, I may not write in anger or malice. 1 
may not write idly. I may not write merely to excite passion. The reader can 
have no idea of the restraint I have to exercise from week to week in the choice 
of topics on my vocabulary. It is a training for me. It enables me to peep into 
myself and to make discoveries of my weaknesses. Often my vanity dictates a 
smart expression or my anger a harsh adjective. It is a terrible ordeal but a line 
exercise to remove these weeds. The reader sees the page of Young India fairly 
well dressed up and sometimes, with Romain Rolland, he is inclined to say 
‘ what a fine old man he must be,’ Well, let the world understand that the 
fineness is carefully and prayerfully cultivated.” 

Newspaper or viewspaper is a social institution. Its success, 
as is admitted, depends to the extent in which, through news and 
views, it prepares and educates the minds of the readers, who are 
educated, half educated or ill educated. Unfortunately papers 
mostly cater to the lower taste of the reader, through sensation 
mongering rather than educating him for better citizenship. A 
crime or sex story serves as an outlet for making imagination for 
such a readership. He pictures himself as a spy tracking the mur- 
derer or an out-law defying law and God. This kind of journalism 
satisfies a genuine craving in him. It is, in a way, an extension of 
his personality. 

We often hear ‘ Readers want this.’ This is how an average 
reader is led to think so. Newspapers have now become industries 

80 



Running the Desk 

with the greater application of science and technology to boost its 
mass circulation. It is profitable, efficient, but costly. It cannot 
do without advertisements, rates of which have increased enor- 
mously. Old time newspapers or viewspapers found it difficult 
to maintain themselves. Editors like Sir Robert Donland, Mr. J. 
A. Spender and Mr. A. G. Gardiner lost their positions as they 
declined to adjust to the new pattern of thinking. Business Managers 
and Proprietors took their places. Papers changed their character. 
Headlines became catchy ; editorial superficial. In Great Britain 
serious papers, which depended so long for careful reporting and 
intelligent comments followed the methods of crime journals with 
a view to making these popular. Popular Press, thus, is an antidote 
to education. It gives the public news and views which they read 
on their breakfast table or in a train or bus coming tired from the 
day’s work. 

Gandhiji under the circumstances, had an uphill task. He 
belonged to the category of Spender and Gardiner, but unlike them, 
had to write mostly for half educated readers. To turn the scale, 
he was training a band of journalists inspired with ideals. He was 
trying to raise the level of his readers. But this proved transitory, 
as we saw the fate of his paper after his death. He could not, side 
by side with his educative role as an editor, change the curriculum 
for schools and colleges which could educate the younger generation 
with advanced political, economic and social ideas so as to appre- 
ciate a high level journal. 

In this context Shri S. Natarajan’s description of the condition 
of the press in India at a time when Gandhiji appeared on the 
scene, is worth quoting : 

“Round about twenties had certain characteristics in that a small staff looked 
after the working of the newspaper. Commercial page or sports page were 
appearing though there were not much of specialisation. Cinema reviews were 
regular feature. There were advertisements but advertisers commanded very 
little influence with the press. The front page was a page of advertisements and 
not news as it is now-a-days. There was not much of theory or practice of 
journalism as was done in other countries. Even the reporters could not know 
shorthand. Horniman’s claim that he could make a journalist out of any one, 
was the order of the day.” 1 * 

The reader was no better. He cared more for sensational news. 

1S S. Natarajan : A History of the Press in India (Asia Publishing House, 
Bombay, 19€2), p. 224. 

81 

G— 6 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

Anything unusual was hot favourite with him. To him, to quote a 
well-known cliche, it was not news if a dog bit a man ; but if a man 
bit a dog, that was news. But Gandhiji’s concept of journalism 
was different. He would give the reader correct stories. He would 
abide by truth. But Mr. Kingsley Martin said : 

“ . . . we must face the fact that comparatively few people have a passion 
for truth as a principle or care about public events continuously when these 
do not obviously affect their own lives. People want to be pleased, and truth 
is not always pleasing. The scientist may have a disinterested desire for know- 
ledge in his particular science, but he rarely applies the discipline of the labora- 
tory to politics. Newspapers have always depended on their public, and the 
public hands out fortunes, not to those who present the truest possible picture 
of public events, but to the show man who can provide the most entertaining 
kaleidoscope.”' 17 

Mr. Scott Mower does not agree that newspapers should 
function like a school — conducting study courses for the education 
of the people. The newspaper is to give the news of the day. In the 
selection of news editors have to be careful otherwise it might be 
one-sided. It is also to be balanced so as to give cheap news for it. 
Now there is a tendency on the part of the newspaper to have as 
many sections as possible so that each group of reading public 
gets the thing it wants . 18 

Incidentally, what did Gandhiji think about the sensational 
press ? We can get an idea from the following report. “ In one 
of the voyages to England, his fellow passengers formed a club 
called ‘ Billy Boats ’ and published a sheet, ‘ Scandal Times.’ 
The name suggested the materials in it and they brought an issue 
to Gandhiji and asked for his opinion of it. He took the sheet, 
extracted the pin which fastened the leaves and told them that he 
had taken the most precious thing from the sheets .” 19 

He was a serious and fastidious editor. Before starting the 
Harijan, Gandhiji in a letter to Shri G. D. Birla, wrote : “ \ would 
warn you against issuing the English edition unless it is properly 
got up, contains readable English material and translations are 
accurate. It would be much better to be satisfied with the Hindi 
edition only than to have an indifferently edited English weekly.” 

17 Kingsley Martin : The Press the Public Wants (The Hogarth Press, London, 
1947), p. 67. 

18 League of Nations : The Educational Role of the Press (Paris, 1934), 
pp. 43-44. 

18 B.B.C. Portrait ; Impressions of Mahatma Gandhi (September 30, 1956). 


82 



Running the Desk 

Gandhiji by nature was quite shy. “ It has taught me the economy 
of words,” he admitted. It also helped him in disciplining his 
thoughts. “ A thoughtless word hardly ever escapes my tongue 
or pen.” 20 

He reminiscenced the South African days and said : 

“ Indeed the journal (the Indian Opinion ) became for me a training in self- 
restraint, and for friends a medium through which to keep in touch with my 
thoughts. In fact the tone of Indian Opinion compelled the critic to put a curb 
on his own pen. . . . For me it became a means for the study of human nature 
in all its caste and shades. ... It made me thoroughly understand the responsi- 
bility of a journalist. . . . " !1 

Gandhiji knew the power of the press very well. It could make 
or mar a case. If used judiciously, a paper could do immense 
good to the people and in the hands of irresponsible people, it 
would work havoc. Like Mr. A. G. Gardiner he could say : 
“ There is nothing more tempting to the journalist than to be an 
incendiary.” He knew that it was the short cut to success. It was 
always easier to appeal to the lower passions of men than to their 
better instincts. He was convinced — and throughout his life he 
followed it — that the aim of journalism was service. 

He warned, “ The newspaper press is a great power, but just as an unchained 
torrent of water submerges whole countryside and devastates crops, even so an 
uncontrolled pen serves but to destroy. It can be profitable only when exercised 
from within. If this line of reasoning is correct, how many of the journals in 
the world would stand the test ? But who would stop those that are useless ? 
And who should be the judge ? The useful and the useless must, like good and 
evil generally, go on together and man must make his choice."** 

The year 1946 ushered in a new atmosphere surcharged with 
emotion. The Cabinet Mission came on an Exploratory mission. 
Delhi became, in April, ‘ a seething cauldron of rumours.’ News- 
papers, which were indulging in kite flying got a rebuke from 
Gandhiji. “ The newspaperman has become a walking plague,” 
he told a prayer meeting gathering. “ All that appears in the 
papers is looked upon as God’s truth. . . . That is bad.” 23 

Gandhiji had, of late, been greatly distressed at the general fall 
in the standard of the Press. He hated speculation. This was 

*° M. K. Gandhi : An Autobiography or The Story of My Experiments with 
Truth (Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1956). 

» Ibid., p. 286. ** Ibid., p. 287. 

* s D. G. Tendulkar : Mahatma (V. K. Jhaveri and D. G. Tendulkar, Bombay, 
1953), Vol. VII, p. 115. 


83 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

sometimes mischievous and often misleading. He hated fabrication 
of news ; he disliked the emphasis often laid on things of little value. 
He did not believe in so called journalistic ‘ scoop \ As one who 
believed in the service to the community, he would advise against 
publication of doubtful news. It was, he felt, the duty of the press 
to withhold publication of it until it was released from authentic 
sources. He laid the greatest stress imaginable on the good or the 
bad influence the Press could wield on its readers. 

Gandhijiwas quick to reprove the Press, if there was too 
much of speculation. “ If I were appointed dictator for a day in 
the place of the Viceroy, I would stop all newspapers ”. “ With 
the exception of Harijan , of course,” he added. That was just 
before the transfer of power. 

In an article, ‘ Standards of Journalism ', published in the 
Harijan on April 11, 1948 — after the death of Gandhiji — Rajkumari 
Amrit Kaur, testified : “ . . . . The Harijan was read over the 
whole of India and in many countries abroad not only because 
of the rich food for thought which Gandhiji’s writings always give 
but also because readers knew that what facts they gleaned there- 
from were cent per cent true. And after having read the Harijan 
there was always the satisfaction that one had learnt something 
that one did not know before. And how obvious that ‘ something ’ 
often was. ...” 

He was against accepting anonymous articles for the journal, 
though, in earlier days in South Africa, he published many unsigned 
articles. “ Why are you afraid of signed articles ? ” he would 
ask contributors. He was the most well-informed editor with 
scores of self-styled correspondents sending despatches regularly. 
They were all unpaid. He read everything sent by them and replied 
to important ones. He shared joys and sorrows, ups and downs, 
with them. That is how he could feel the pulse of the nation through 
a fleet of self-styled correspondents. They would, sometime, bring 
to his notice important official documents. The most celebrated 
of them was the publication of the secret circular issued by the 
Government in 1942, under the direction of Mr. Puckle, the then 
Home Secretary. Gandhiji explained : 

“ I have had the good fortune to have friends who have supplied me with 
titbits of national importance, such as I am presenting to the public here. 
Mahadev Desai reminds me that such an occasion occurred some 7 years ago, 

84 



Running the Desk 

when a friend had unearthed the famous Hallet circular* Such was also an 
occasion, when the late Shraddhanandji was given an important document, 
though not of the sensational character as the Hallet circular, or Sir Frederick 
Puckle's very interesting production and that of his lieutenant Shri D. C. Das* 
The pity of it is that the circulars were secret. They must thank me for giving the 
performance as wide publicity as I can. For, it is good for the public to know to 
what lengths the Government can go in their attempt to suppress national 
movements, however, innocent, open and above-board they are. Heaven knows 
how many such secret instructions have been issued which have never seen 
the light of day ... let the public know that these circulars are an additional 
reason for the cry of "Quit India ' which comes not from the lips but the aching 
hearts of millions. Let the masses know that there are many other ways of 
earning a living than betraying the national interests. Surely, it is no part of their 
duty to lend themselves to the very questionable methods as evidenced by Sir 
Frederick P tickle's instructions/* 

How could he manage the voluminous correspondence and 
newspaper reports ? Shri Pyarelal, his erstwhile Secretary, said, 
that he evolved, through experience, a quick and efficient method 
of scanning the items. Nothing escaped him ; nor did he spend 
much time on these. His talks with Shri Prabhu, when taking 
charge of the Young India and regarding which references had 
already been made, will be of interest in this context. 

“ Gandhiji looking at the page of Young India which was made up of news 
in brief, asked me who gathered those news items. Being told that I was res- 
ponsible for them, he asked me whence I culled the news. I said I made the 
clipping from the latest issues of the various Indian journals which were received 
in exchange for Young India and the Bombay Chronicle . 

“ How much time do you spend in gathering these items ? ** he asked. 

“ I replied that it took me hardly more than half an hour to clip and paste 
these news items required to make up the page. 

‘ You spend only half an hour over them \ he remarked in surprise. * Do 
you know \ he added 4 when I edited Indian Opinion in South Africa, we received 
some 200 papers in exchange and I used to go through all of them carefully 
throughout the week and I culled each news item only after I was fully satisfied 
that it would be of real service to the readers. When one takes up the respon- 
sibility of editorship, he must discharge it with a full sense of one's duty. That 
is the only way journalism should be practised— don't you agree with me?" 24 


24 Gandhiji— His Life and Work , Published on his 75th Birthday October 2, 
1944. Edited by D. G. Tendulkar and others (Published by Karnatak Pub- 
lishing House, Bombay), pp. 272-273. 


85 



4 


Editor with a Difference 


Gandhiji proved that style was the man. To him words flowed 
like the rippling rivulet. Like a bird he chirped at ease, and 
merrily too. His English was biblical. Some compared it with 
that of masters like Ruslan or Thoreau. 

We had seen how meticulous he was about the use of English 
words ; how carefully he chose the correct word at the right 
moment. Above all, his sentences were simple and lucid. The 
fact that he wrote from his heart made his writings all the more 
absorbing. 

This style was a complete departure from the one that was in 
vogue in India when he reached the country. Giants like Shri 
Surendranath Banerjea, Shri Bipin Chandra Pal, Shri Balgangadhar 
Tilak, Shri Aurobindo Ghose were writing in their Macaulayan 
style. These writings were heavy in form and content. Sentences 
were unusually long. For an average reader these were difficult 
to follow. The following, for example, from Shri Ambika Charan 
Mazumdar's presidential address before the Lucknow Session 
(1916) of the Indian National Congress will illustrate the 
point : 

“ There are, however, those who say * not yet/ Not yet : Then * when? ’ — 
asks the Indian nationalist. But here the oracle is dumb and echo only answers — 
* when l * Edwin Sevan’ s parable of the 4 Patient and the Steel Frame ' is cited 
and the people are strictly enjoined to lie in peace and possess their souls in 
patience until their political c Nirvana * is accomplished. Simile and metaphor 
are not safe guides in practical life, for all fables are but fallacies clothed in 
equivocal language which captivates the imagination and deludes the reason. 
For even the patient 4 steel frame ' required a gradual relaxation and occasional 
re-adjustment of his splints and bandages and, above all, a steady, substantial 
improvement in his dietary arrangements, as after all it is the food and nourish- 
ment and not the splint and bandages, that are calculated to give him strength 


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Editor with a Difference 

and cure him of his injuries. You cannot indefinitely keep him on milk and 
sago to help either the knitting of the bones or the * granulation of the flesh/ 
Our critics however, would enjoin 4 perfect quiet and repose * without pre- 
scribing any kind of diet until the people shall have, in their spirit of quiescence, 
fully recovered themselves in their steel frame. If any illustration were actually 
needed, one might fairly suggest that the case of either the swimmer or the rider 
would probably furnish a more apposite object lesson. You cannot expect the 
one to be an expert jockey without training him on the back of a horse, as you 
cannot expect the other to foe an expert swimmer without allowing him to go 
into the water. There must be repeated falls and duckings before any efficiency 
can be attained by either. . . . There is a school for the lawyer, the physician, 
the educationist and the engineer where he can obtain his passport and begin 
his profession ; but is there any school or college where an aspirant can be 
admitted to his degree for self-government ? It is through self-government 
that the art of self-government can be either taught or acquired. . . . In the 
words of Mr. Gladstone, it is the institution of self-government which constitutes 
the best training ground for self-government. ...” 

Compare this Macaulayan amplitude and richness of phrasing 
and weight of trajectory learning with Gandliij/s wisely utilitarian, 
clear and direct language. In his appeal to the people of Gujarat, 
in 1922, 1 he said : 

“Let him who wants, come. Let him who can, join the fray. Everyone is 
invited, but the hungry alone shall come to the feast. Others, even if they come, 
will only be sorry. He who has no hunger, will not relish even a dry crust of 
bread. Likewise, those who understand non-cooperation can alone stand by 
it. He who understands finds things easy. For those who do not, everything 
is difficult. What is the use of a mirror to the blind ? 

“The times are difficult. Let us not take a thoughtless step, lest we may 
rue it. . . . Civil disobedience of laws. We arc no longer ignorant of it. Jail 
is its inevitable destination. And we can court it. Why can we not do as much ? 
It is not so difficult. But — ? 

“ But if martial law is declared ? If Gurkhas come ? If Tommy Atkins 
comes ? Suppose they bayonet us, shoot us, make us crawl ? They are welcome. 
Let them come. But if we are asked to crawl ? Then too, we must be ready 
to die rather than crawl. We shall then only die by the bayonet instead of the 
plague. We are not likely to run away, if we are fired on : we have now acquired 
so much strength that we will receive the bullets on our chests, like playthings. 
We shall convert the Gurkhas into our brothers. If not, what happiness is 
greater than dying at the hands of a brother ? Even we say this, we feel proud. 

“ But if— 

“ I am confident this time that timid Gujarati will show its mettle. But as I 
write, my pen is heavy. Whenever did Gujarati hear gunshots ? When did it 
see rivers of blood flowing ? Will Gujarata withstand shots fired like crackers ? 

1 K. M. Munshi : Gandhi : The Master (Rajkamal Publications Ltd., Delhi, 
1948), pp. 52-53. 


87 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

Heads broken like earthen pots ? If Gujarata sees others’ heads broken, it will 
be immortal. Why do you want training ? Confidence ? You will never acquire 
confidence by a Congress resolution. It is God who helps the weak. God alone 
gives courage. Whom Rama protects, none can injure. He has given us the 
body. Let Him, if he wants, take it away. Even if you so desire you cannot 
treasure up your body. Like money, it has to be spent in noble acts. What is a 
nobler occasion for giving up life than when you are combating this atrocity ? 
Whoever believes thus sincerely, will receive bullets with his bare chest, his 
face smiling.” 

Or take another sample of his political writings: 

44 Politically India’s status has never been so reduced as under the British 
regime. No reforms have given real political power to the people. The tallest 
of us have to bend before foreign authority. The rights of free expression of 
opinion and free association have been denied to us, and many of our country- 
men are compelled to live in exile abroad and they cannot return to their own 
homes. All administrative talent is killed, and the masses have to be satisfied 
with petty village offices and clerk-ships. 

44 Culturally, the system of education has tom us from our moorings, our 
training has made us hug the very chains that bind us. 

44 Spiritually, compulsory disarmament has made us unmanly, and the pre- 
sence of an alien army of occupation, employed with deadly effect, to crush in 
us the spirit of resistance, has made us think that we cannot look after our- 
selves or even defend our homes and families from the attacks of thieves, robbers 
and miscreants.” 

While on the river Brahmaputra he wrote : 

44 The steamer is gliding on the river. We are all sitting on the deck. The 
river looks wide as the sea. We can see the banks, far away on either side ; the 
distance between the two may be two miles or a little over. The voyage will 
take about fifteen days. Sublime peace has descended on the river. The moon, 
hidden behind the clouds, spreads a soft light over the waters. The propellers, 
even as they cut their way through the water, hum sweetly. Except for this 
hum, peace is over everything and everywhere. I alone have no peace of mind. 
The steamer is not mine, the river is not mine. I travel in the steamer through 
the courtesy of the power of which I am tired, which has made India decrepit, 
lustreless, poor.” 

Or consider tlie obituary written by him, after the murder of 
Swami Shradhanand by a Muslim fanatic in Delhi : 

44 Death is no fiend. He is the truest of friends. He is like sleep. Though 
Shraddhanand is dead, he is yet living. He is living in a truer sense than when 
he moved about in our midst in his giant body. The family in which he was 
born, the nation to which he belonged, are to be congratulated upon so glorious 
a death as his. He lived a hero ; he has died a hero. But there is another 
side to the shield. The joy of his death is tempered by the sorrow that an erring, 
misguided brother has been the cause of it .... It does not matter to me what 
prompted the deed. The fault is ours. The newspaperman has become a walking 
plague. He spreads the contagion of lies and calumnies. He exhausts the foul 

§8 



Editor with a Difference 

vocabulary of his dialect and injects his virus into the unsuspecting, and often 
receptive, minds of his readers. Leaders, intoxicated with the exuberance of 
their own language, have not known to put a curb upon their tongues or pens. 
It is therefore we, the educated and the semi-educated class, that are responsible 
for the hot fever which possessed Abdul Rashid/* 

What a contrast was the peroration in the old Johnsonian 
style, by the 41 Thunderer of Bengal \ Shri Surendranath Banerjea. 
The occasion was the unveiling of the portrait of Dadabhai Naoroji 
in the Cowasji Jehangir Half Bombay, in 1919 : 

44 The truest memorial that we can have of the illustrious dead is to raise taber- 
nacles in our hearts in their honour, to devote ourselves to the worship of those 
principles which were theirs and to the furtherance of those aims which were 
their lifework. Then will these great men, emancipated from the fetters of 
flesh and blood, live in our midst in a higher form of existence and be imperi- 
shable guides in our outward march which must lead to the accomplishment of 
our highest destinies. Dadabhai Naoroji will be one such leader. You 
may have your busts, your statues, your portraits. They serve a useful purpose, 
they remind us of their mortal existence and of their imperishable work. But 
let not our reverence, our affection and our esteem be confined to mere dead 
forms, but let them be a living source of inspiration to us. Let them raise us 
to the higher atmosphere fragrant with the breath of these immortals and inspire 
us with a resolve to incorporate into our daily life the ideals which they have 
left for our instruction and guidance. Let us imprint upon our minds the lessons 
of sobriety, moderation, of lifelong devotion to the Mother Land which Naoroji 
has taught us. Then we shall have raised in his honour a memorial more lasting 
than brass or marble, a memorial transmissible from age to age, that will become 
the lasting heritage of our people in the rich possession of those moral 
qualities' which are the truest guarantees of continued and undying national 
progress/* 

Gandhiji not only revolutionized the political thinking of the 
day, but English writing of his countrymen as well. Tt had no 
screaming headline, no catchy sub-headings or magic typography. 
But it was universally read. 

“His thunder acquires a serve majesty, his appeal its persuasiveness, his 
confession its poignancy, as much by proper use of the proper word as by his 

personality. Sometimes, he is slyly humorous or playful With him, beauty 

of expression has to be a humble housemaid to Truth/* 2 

The Hdrijan was first published in 1933. Shri Jawaharlal Nehru 
got copies of it while under detention. “ I was delighted,” Shri 
Nehru wrote to Gandhiji, from Dehradun gaol, after reading the 
first two copies of the Harijan , “ to see the old rapier touch of 

* K. M. Munshi : Gujarata and its Literature , (Longmans, Green & Co., 
Ltd., Calcutta, 1935), p. 312, 


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Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

overmuch kindness and inexhaustible patience which extinguishes, 
or as you say, neutralizes the opponent/' 3 

Younger generation of writers got influenced by his style. They 
tried to emulate him. Gone were the days of pompous style or 
verbosity. Not only contributors to the Young India or the 
Harijan but those to other papers and magazines started writing in 
simple English. A new class of journalists were coming to the fore. 

More important than the style was the content of his writing. 
The subject-matter he chose was down to the ground. Gandhiji 
was able to divert the attention of the rising journalists and authors 
from cities to villages. He impressed on them the fact that India 
lived in her villages ; that the journalist" s or author’s job was to 
write about village and villagers. Thus he was able to put the 
village of India on the wider and lively canvas of Indian writing. 
The Gandhian era of writing — a golden era — came into existence. 

Presiding over the Gujarat Literary Conference on November 2 S 
1936, Gandhiji asked : 

" For whose sake are we going to have our literature ? Not certainly for the 
great gentry of Ahmedabad. They can afford to engage literary men and have 
great libraries in their homes. But what about the poor man at the well who 
with unspeakable abuse is goading his bullocks to pull the big leather bucket ? 
Years ago I had asked Narasimharao, who I am sorry is too aged and ill to be 
here in our midst, if he could give me something, inspired tunes or ditties, which 
this man at the well could lustily sing and forget for ever the filthy abuse ? I 
have hundreds of such folks for whom 1 want real life-giving literature. How 
am I to do so ? I live in Segaon today where in a population of six hundred a 
little over ten are literate. . . . 

" I should have loved to bring with me a Segaon boy here, I have not done 
so. What would he do here ? He would find himself in strange world. 

“ As I am speaking to you just now, I think of Dean Farrar and his book 
on the life of Christ. I may fight the British rule, but I do not hate the English 
or their language. In fact, I appreciate their literary treasures. And Dean 
Farrar's book is one of the rare treasures of the English language. You know 
how he laboured to produce that book ? He read everything about Jesus in 
English language, and then he went to Palestine, saw every place and spot in the 
Bible that he could identify, and then wrote the book in faith and prayer for the 
masses in England, in a language which all of them could understand. It is not 
in Dr. Johnson's style but in the easy style of Dickens. Here have we men like 
Farrar, who will produce great liteiature for the village folk ? Our literary 
men will pour on Kalidas and Bhavabhuti, and English authors, and will give 

8 From a letter from Shri Jawaharlal Nehru to Gandhiji. 


90 



Editor with a Difference 

us imitations. I want them to go to villages, study them, and give something 
life-giving.” 1 * * 4 

The Gandhian impact on contemporary Indian literature was 
great. As regards the writer’s choice of language, one result of 
the Gandhian influence had been a general preference for the 
mother tongue or the regional language, and occasionally a 
purposeful bilingualism, the same writer handling with mastery 
his own mother tongue as well as English. Besides, whatever the 
language medium chosen, the stress has been more on simplicity 
and clarity and immediate effectiveness than on ornateness or 
profundity and artistry ; and this has been as marked in English 
writing as in writing in the regional language. As regards the 
choice of themes and the portrayal of character, the Gandhian 
influence has been no less marked. There has been a more or less 
conscious shift of emphasis from the city to the village, or there is 
implied a contrast between the two — urban luxury and sophistica- 
tion on the one hand and rural modes and manners on th« other. 5 

Gandhiji, in fact, brought in many new elements which introduced 
a fresh life in the field of jotimalism. “ As a result of his wide 
interest, his genius for simplification, his eagerness to reach the 
largest number of people, and the startling nature of his activities, 
there was a quickening of life in journalism. Many of his followers 
were moved to write and publish in the Indian languages, and in 
imitation of his own direct style they wrote a simple prose. Regional 
journalism began to acquire an importance and .there was hardly 
an area of the country which did not have its newspapers.” ? 6 

Gandhiji’s English had been praised by knowledgeable persons. 
Did he ever make a mistake in the use of this foreign language ? 
The following piece appearing in the Harijan of December 23, 
1939, should be read with interest. 

Under the caption, ‘ My Handicap,’ Gandhiji wrote : 

“ I wonder if all journalists, having to write in English, feel the handicap 
which I do. The reflection arises from a stupid use I made of the verb * cavil ' 
in my note on a learned Englishman’s letter partly reproduced in Harijan of 2nd 

1 D. G. Tendulkar : Mahatma (V. K. Jhaveri and D. G. Tendulkar, Bombay, 

1952), Vol. IV, pp. 114-115. 

* K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar : Indian Writing in English (Asia Publishing House, 
Bombay, 1962), p. 22. 

4 S. Natarajan : A History of the Press in Irtdki (Asia Publishing House, 

Bombay, 1962), p. 190. 


91 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

December. In my comment I said, ‘ The writer seems to cavil at the demand for 
Independence as distinguished from Dominion Status.’ The learned writer 
draws my attention to the meaning of the word ‘ cavil ’ as implying captious 
criticism of which, he says, he was wholly unconscious. I take great care in the 
use of English words. With all my care, however, I cannot make up for my 
imperfect knowledge of a foreign tongue. I had never known the dictionary 
meaning of the word. I must have picked up the word in the course of reading 
or hearing. I had hitherto given it an innocent meaning in the sense of strongly 
objecting. Knowing the writer as I do, I could never think of him as raising 
captious objection. I have apologised to him for the unconscious error. It is 
good that he drew my attention to it. Heaven only knows how often, though 
wholly unconsciously I must have offended persons simply because of my 
ignorance of English language and its subtle idiom and usage. The language 
expands with the expansion of its people. I must struggle in the best manner 
I can and expect the indulgence of the English readers who, knowing my limi- 
tations, should believe that where my language seems to offend, the offence is 
wholly unintended." 

Gandhiji undoubtedly introduced a new and a noble element 
in the field of journalism. It was his approach — his human 
approach — which gave his writings a character. He never looked 
upon the reading public as target for propaganda. He regarded 
them as living reality whose interests, tastes and foibles he 
willingly shared and fathomed in order to bring a real change in 
the country and the world. He belonged to the people by identi- 
fying himself with them and wrote about their feelings and 
aspirations. His voice was the voice of humanity — not the 
voice of a pamphleteer. He wanted to change the human character 
and would never be satisfied by changing a few laws or acts, here 
and there. 

To whom should the journalist be loyal to ? To the proprietor, 
to one’s own self or to the particular class he belongs to ? This 
has often been debated with different conclusions. But to Gandhiji, 
readers were the most important. A journalist may be a patriot, 
a party member, or a faithful employee ; but his loyalty according 
to him should primarily be to his readers. Public has the right 
to know the truth. He must be informed objectively as to what 
is happening. If the paper looses confidence of his readers, it has 
lost all that is worth in journalism. 

Progress of science and education was continuously raising 
the intellectual level of the public. Certain papers were inspired 
to become promoters of ideals. This was particularly true in the 
Victorian era when the British press, by and large, started 


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Editor with a Difference 

educating people on political and moral values. Gandhiji, when he 
first started journalism in South Africa, grew in this climate. 
Though industrial civilization later dominated every aspect of 
human life, Gandhiji was still preaching high standards and trying 
to introduce a sense of value through his writings. 

The educational mission that the press is capable of accomplish- 
ing depends, in a large measure, rtpon the talent of those who write 
for tire papers. If a journalist possesses personality, he can 
accustom his readers to follow him into almost every field and, 
in the end, impose upon them a veritable education. The public is 
fascinated by the radiation of his personality. The reader is auto- 
matically attracted by personal magnetism. In the field of 
journalism, this is, perhaps, the one axiom that does not admit of 
dispute. If a journalist, on the other hand, is strongly individual, 
he will, from time to time, make his articles almost always un- 
readable as he asks too much of the reader. To give his readers 
an elementary course of politics would demand a great deal of tact, 
and stilt more talent. He, perforce confines himself to writing 
in his usual style, which is incomprehensible for the public and 
often prevents it from taking interest in political happenings. In 
brief, the writer alone is in a position to link up with the very 
sources of life an important event, be it political, social or economic 
and in a few words, bring it into the strictly human domain which 
is accessible to all. 

. This was Gandhiji’s magic. His treatment was like that. That 
was why his readers would read his writings as gospel truth. His 
personality would attract readers, his writings would elevate them 
to a higher plane, would help them in a holy communion with 
God, which, in his case was truth. 

“ There was not only a new thought but a new language in 
newspaper writing and what he wrote was the best in political 
thought and finest in journalistic writings. No editor could escape 
being influenced by GandhijVs writings. ,, ' 7 

Gandhiji had sometimes reviewed books. That was done also 
from the point of view of service to the community. If he would 
come across a book which would prove useful to the people, he 
would write about it with his comments. He reviewed, at length 

7 A. S. Iyengar : All Through the Gandhiaii Era (Hind Kitabs Ltd., Bombay, 
1950), p. 28. 


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Mahatma Gandhi — The journalist 

Mr. F. L. Brayne's books on rural upliftment activities in Gurgaon 
district, Punjab. He pointed out the good points and the bad 
points of the book vis-a-vis a better solution as he thought of the 
rural problems. 

He would ignore reference of books if these were not useful. 
Even in South African days when he had to compromise on small 
matters for the ultimate good of his paper, he was strict about 
reviews, in the Indian Opinion. In his letter to Shri Chhaganlal 
Gandhi, dated September 30, 1905, he wrote : “ I have seen 
today the book written by Sheikh Mehtab. Do not take any notice 
of it in the Opinion .” Sheikh, it may be mentioned, was his school 
mate. 

At times he would be highly critical of harmful books. The 
best example is his review of Miss Mayo’s Mother India. Under 
the title * Drain Inspector’s Report,’ lie wrote, in the Young 
India dated September 15, 1927 : “ Miss Mayo has herself 

favoured me with a copy of her book .... The book is cleverly 
and powerfully written .... But the impression it leaves on my 
mind is that it is the report of a drain inspector sent out with the 
one purpose of opening and examining the drains of the country to 
be reported upon or to give graphic description of the stomach 
exuded by the opened drains.” He wrote at length with supporting 
extracts from the book and concluded : “ That a book like Miss 
Mayo’s can command a large circulation furnishes a sad commen- 
tary on Western literature and culture.” 

Under the heading ‘ A vicious book,’ Gandhiji, on July 25, 
1929, mentioned about the book Swami Dayanand — A critical 
study of his life and teaching. The caption of the review was 
enough to indicate what Gandhiji wrote. 

Gandhiji was a prolific writer. On way to South Africa from 
England, in 1909, he utilized his time in writing the manuscript 
of the book — Hind Swaraj. It is in the form of 20 brief dialogues 
between ‘ Reader ’ and 1 Editor.' It covers subjects like India 
and England, Civilization, Swaraj, machinery, Hindu Muslim 
Unity, non-violence, Satyagraha, etc. What Gandhiji thought 
and said and did during 40 years of his active life i.e. from 1908-48, 
was epitomized in the book. The manuscript was found intact 
even after many years. Shri Prabhudas Gandhi said : “ Turning 
over the pages of the manuscript, one realises Gandhi ji’s genius 


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Editor with a Difference 

as a writer. In the 275 hand written pages only three lines have 
been scratched out. A few words here and there have been changed. 
When Gandhiji got tired of writing with his right hand, he wrote 
with his left.” 8 He finished the whole manuscript in ten days time. 

He was asked later as to whether he would like to make any 
change in the book. He made only one change. The word 
1 prostitute ’ used in connection with Parliament was taken out. 
This was done to satisfy the sentiment of an English lady who 
was annoyed over the use of the word. 

Wliat was Gandhiji’ s attitude towards the vernacular press ? 
Did he like conducting English papers at the cost of vernacular 
ones ? Was he happy in communicating his ideas with readers 
through the medium of a foreign language ? These and many 
other questions will naturally crop up while discussing Gandhiji as a 
journalist. He had, as we will see, his definite view on the subject. 

Kaka Saheb Kalelkar mentioned an incident which occurred 
immediately after Gandhiji came back from South Africa. A 
Parsi journalist interviewed him and as was the custom of those 
days, started asking questions in English. Gandhiji, politely but 
firmly replied, “ Friend, you are an Indian and I, too, an Indian. 
Your mother tongue is Gujarati, and so is mine. Why, then, do 
you ask your questions in English ? Do you imagine that I have 
forgotten my native tongue because I lived in South Africa. Or do 
you consider it more dignified to talk in English because I am a 
barrister.” 9 

Newspapers carried this story widely. In those days when 
affected English conversation and European dress were criteria 
for a successful politician, at least here was a man who was not 
ashamed to speak his language if he could. 

Personally Gandhiji did not like to write much in English though 
he loved the language and developed, as we saw, a style of his own. 
He knew that English could not be the national language of India. 
But so long as the national language, Hindustani, was not 
developed, he had to choose a medium through which his message 
could be reached to the four corners of the country. Indian 

* Prabhudas Gandhi t My Childhood with Gandhiji (Navajivan Publishing 
House, Ahmedabad, 1957), p. 87. 

9 Kaka Kalelkar : Stray Glimpses of Bapti (Navajivan Publishing House, 
Ahmedabad, 1950), p. 4. 


95 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

publicists in those days had to be, of necessity, bilingual. 
Raja Rammohan Roy wrote in Bengali as well as in English. 

‘ Lokamanya ’ Tilak edited the Kesari in Marathi and the 
Mahratta in English. Sri Aurobindo Ghose edited the Bande- 
mataram and the Kannayogin in English and the Dharma in 
Bengali. 

Discussing objectives of the Young India, the first journal he was 
going to edit in India, Gandhiji declared: “ . . . I recognise that 
for a few years to come, until we have accepted ‘ Hindustani ’ as 
the common medium among the cultured classes and until ‘ Hin- 
dustani ’ becomes compulsory in our schools as a second language, 
educated India, specially in the Madras Presidency, must be 
addressed in English”. 

There was a suggestion from a correspondent that the English 
edition should be stopped to help the growth of Indian language 
editions. Apart from that, should not he give a lead and propa- 
gate his ideas through the local language ? Otherwise how * Hin- 
dustani ’ would thrive ? Gandhiji was also, for sometime, thinking 
on that line. Once he resolved to write for the Harijan in nothing 
but Gujarati and Hindi, and the articles were to be translated 
into English. “ I personally was sad and begged of him to write 
at least one small note in English because his English was quite 
remarkable and his writings will certainly be included in years 
to come as valuable contribution to English literature. But he 
was adamant. However, after a while letters from abroad came 
pouring in and in the end he could not resist the impassioned 
appeal of his foreign readers to write original articles in the 
English Harijan ." 10 

Gandhiji explained the position thus : 

“ I can’t stop the English edition for the reason that Englishmen, as well as the 
Indian scholars of the English language consider me to be to a good writer in 
the English language. My relations with the West are also increasing every day 
.... I do not wish to forget that language, nor do I wish all the Indians to 
give up or forget it.” 

Gandhiji’s Gujarati style was as commendable as his English. 
It was much more. He set a new style in Gujarati literature about 
which Shri K. M. Munshi discussed at length, in the book Gujarata 
and its Literature. 

10 Illustrated Weekly of India (Bombay, October 20, 1957). 


96 




Pl. I. Writing an Editorial for the Paper 





PL. II. Replying to Correspondents’ Queries 


[ Courtesy : Kanu Gandhi] 





: v 




Pl. IV. Talking to the Journalists on board the steam-launch in Noakhali, Bengal 



^ L * V. Papers itiat Oandhijl edited 
\_ Courtesy : V. K. Jhaveri and D. G. Tendulkar] 




Editor with a Difference 

Gujarati language is greatly indebted to Gandhiji. It had its 
heyday while he was editing and writing for the Navajivan and, 
later on, in the Gujarati edition of the Harijan. Even earlier he 
used to contribute Gujarati articles in the Gujarati section of the 
Indian Opinion. 

His autobiography -^Atmakatha — Satyagraha in South Africa 
( Dakshina African Satyagrano Itihasa), Arogya Vise Samanya 
Jnana were all written originally in Gujarati. So long there were two 
distinct trends of Gujarati literature. One was the Gujarati style 
and the other Saurashtra style. Both were pedantic, with liberal 
use of Sanskrit or Persian. Moreover there were unnecessary 
literary flourishes. Under Gandhiji’s influence the Gujarati and 
Saurashtra were not only combined but were made into a powerful 
people’s language. It was simple and direct. There was no verbosity 
in it. Nor were Sanskrit or Persian words unnecessarily mixed. 

Shri Munshi wrote : 

“ . . . . Since he became the editor of the weekly Navajivan till it stopped in 
1932, week after week, except when in jail, he has addressed to the Gujaratis 
his viesws and theories, his sermons, confidences, and battle-cries. Few other 
newspapers in the world have had a similar popularity and influence in their 
area of circulation as this small, unostentatious sheet which never screamed 
a head line and never published an advertisement. With many, it replaced the 
novel and the Purana in interest. A single copy of this weekly has often brought 
to a distant hamlet its only journal and gospel of life .... ” 11 

His autobiography, originally written in Gujarati but appearing 
serially in the Young India , translated by Shri Mahadev Desai, is 
one of the best works in Gujarati. Though it lacks literary charm 
it is frank and inspiring. It rings with sincerity. Gandhiji’s writing 
form should not be compared with that of a literary man. He 
developed his writing faculty as part of his communication with 
people. Understanding the people was more important to him 
than becoming a celebrated author. That makes his literary debut 
more welcome. 

Mr. J. H. Holmes wrote : 

“ Gandhi’s literary achievement is the more remarkable in view of the fact 
that he was never, in any sense of the phrase, a literary man. Unlike his great 
contemporary, Rabindranath Tagore, and his accomplished successor. Pandit 
Nehru, the Mahatma had no special grace of style. Seldom, if ever, in his 

11 K. M. Munshi : Gandhi : The Master (Rajkamal Publications, Ltd., Delhi, 
1948), p. 49. 

97 

G— 7 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

writings, did he rise to heights of eloquence and beauty. Memorable passages—- 
i.e. memorable for their own sake — are rarely found. Gandhi’s interests were 
never aesthetic, but rather pragmatic. He had no desire or ambition, no time, 
to be an artist. His one thought was of his own people, and his struggle to 
make them free. So he wrote with disciplined simplicity, seeking only to make 
himself clearly understood. The result was the one most important quality of 
literary art — namely, clarity. I doubt, if, in all hi» works, Gandhi ever wrote 
a sentence wlaich failed to express with utter precision the thought he had in 
mind to convey. Gandhi mastered his medium. He wrought a style which was 
perfect for his purpose of communication. To read his writings is to think of 
content and not of style which means a triumph in the adaption of means 
to ends.” 12 

Gandhiji’s letters, small or big, official or personal, were pure 
gems. These were appropriately worded and spoken from heart. 

“ Many are playful ; some loving. Many administer a paternal rebuke ; some 
with indescribable restraint, hit, and hit well ; a few are intimates ; scarcely 
any throbs with the impulse of an unguarded moment. The author adjusts the 
tone, the language and the perspective of every letter with uncanny precision 
so as to have the desired effect on the addressee. These letters have provided 
him with his greatest instrument of controlling the conscience and conduct of 
his friends and adherents. No man has wielded so great an influence through 
his letters ; and few literary men have written theirs with such art.” 13 

Not only did Gandhiji introduce style in Gujarati, he tried to 
do something for the children-— for the coming generation — as 
well. Many do not know that Gandhiji tried to write primers 
for the children. This he did, as already referred to, in the Yeravada 
prison. Tt was a new style that he introduced — in the form of 
a dialogue — in telling things to the children. The dialogue was 
between the mother and the child, Gandhiji hoped that the mother 
in India will, in future, be her child’s teacher. 

Last but not the least was the initiative taken by him in esta- 
blishing the * Gujarat Vidyapeeth.’ Not only the ‘ Vidyapeeth ’ 
was to foster and see that the Gujarati language thrive but would 
also help in cultural promotions amongst the people. 

Apart from Gandhiji’s writing in original Gujarati, he took a 
great lead in translating other useful materials into Gujarati 
language. In fact he created a team of translation experts in the 
Navajivan Press. They translated many pieces and books and 

w Homer A. Jack (Ed.) : The Wit and Wisdom of Gandhi (Beacon Press, 
Boston, 1951), preface pp. vii-viii. 

13 K. M. Munshi : Gandhi : The Master (Rajkamal Publications Ltd., 
Delhi, 1948), p. 56. 

98 



Editor with a Difference 

published them through the columns of the Navajivan. Shri K. M 
Munshi said : “ Gujarat has taken a leaf out of Bapu’s book 
and its insistence on a high standard of literature and on accuracy 
in translation has increased considerably. Before Bapu’s influence 
changed its outlook, Gujarat abounded in shoddy translations of 
Bengali, Marathi and English books, in which the translators had 
calmly ignored all the difficult words and gave only half the meaning 
of difficult sentences.” 

Gandhiji was interested in the flourish of all Indian languages. 
Towards the end of his life he tried to learn Bengali. His own 
handwritings in Bengali can still be found. Even the day before he 
was killed he wrote a passage in Bengali and showed it to his 
teacher — Mrs. Ava Gandhi. 

Early in his South African life Gandhiji started to learn Tamil 
so that he could easily communicate with the Tamil people residing 
in South Africa. In a letter to Shri Chhaganlal Gandhi, dated 
April 17, 1905, Gandhiji wrote : “ I am studying Tamil very dili- 
gently and, if all is well, I may be able to fairly understand the 
Tamil articles within two months at the outside. I am rather anxious 
to get the Tamil books.” 

But Gandhiji made it his life’s mission to make Hindustani the 
lingua franca of the people. As a nationalist he wanted a common 
language for the country and, though aware of the richness of the 
Gujarati literature, did not hesitate to support and foster the claim 
of Hindustani for this honour. He made all efforts to make the 
language acceptable in all India and for that he did not spare time, 
men or money. 


99 



5 


Managing the Paper 


Managerial training for Gandhiji started with the Indian Opinion. 
In fact he from the beginning, showed a tremendous grasp over 
each detail in running the paper. That not only brought to surface 
his qualities for smooth and efficient management, but sharpened 
those faculties to greater extent. From type setting to printing, 
from packing to posting, from collecting of subscription to overall 
budgeting, he had a hand. 

Being by birth and instinct a businessman — ‘ bania ’, as he 
would call himself — he knew that efficient management of the 
business side of a paper was essential for its ultimate success. It 
called for right sort of coordination among workers, effective 
administration of office details and proper handling of corres- 
pondence. He was doing all these in the midst of his other pre- 
occupations. 

In fact, in the early days of the Indian Opinion , Gandhiji was 
practically doing almost everything single handed. In India, the 
volume of work increased many fold while running the Young 
India and the Harijan. But he was carrying on with his job magni- 
ficently with the help of a few trusted workers who were trained 
by him. And he was, as we had seen, beeping a watchful eye on 
each detail. 

Gandhiji knew that the business side of a paper, however small 
it might be, must not be dealt in a slip-shod manner. All loose 
ends should be plugged. The success of a paper did not depend 
on the good editorials only ; it depended very much on efficient 
management. 

No matter how excellent the editorial tone and selective the 
contents of a paper might be, they would avail little if circulation 


100 



Managing the Paper 

was very much limited. As in a chain,, there was no place for a 
weak link in a paper. It must be strong at each strategic point, 
i.e. writing, news editing, news selecting, printing and circulating. 
Newspaper running was largely a matter of timing. 

Flow of copy to the press should be regular and adequate. Plans 
for selection of news a?id its placing must be done well in advance. 
Once that was taken care of, timely printing was assured. The 
foreman of the composing room, the head make-up and even the 
copy cutter could then keep the editor informed about the hourly 
development during the hours of production. 

Because of its important and urgent nature, a paper should be 
particular in maintaining contacts with all. In fact it should 
set example in handling correspondence with parties. Gandhiji 
was in that respect a past master. He was not only prompt in 
answering business communications, but the quality of his letters 
was superb. He was corresponding on all matters with every one 
so to say. His correspondents were similarly keeping him abreast 
with all development. 

Gandhiji introduced a new tone in his correspondence. Unlike 
the formal, stiff and highly artificial letters in an average news- 
paper office, his was couched in simple and direct language. It 
was brief and very much to the point. It was fashioned to suit the 
needs of the occasion. Being more natural, it was very much infor- 
mal in tone. His letters were, as one writer said, a model for ideal 
correspondence : “ Correct, artistic in appearance, conversational 
and informal in tone without sacrificing dignity, familiar without 
being bold or aggressive, definitive in purpose and, above all, 
courteous ”. 

Gandhiji not only planned, but executed the work along with 
other colleagues. When he was away from the scene, he would, 
through letters, etc., keep constant touch with them. 

Gandhiji, later on, shifted to Johannesburg. He was, regularly 
from that place, advising on the management of the Press and the 
paper published from the Phoenix farm. He had an able assistant 
in Shri Chhaganlal Gandhi to whom he was writing constantly 
on matters of importance. 

In the letter dated September 27, 1905, he wrote : “ There is a 
letter from Hemchand to-day saying that a notice dispensing with 
his services has been served on him. I have thereupon sent a 

101 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

telegram asking that he be not discharged. I do not relish the idea 
of discharging even Ramnath.” In the same letter he confessed : 
“ I do not think I shall be able to train Gokuldas for Gujarati 
in two months. He seems to be very weak in Gujarati.” 

Shri Chhaganlal got nervous at the bleak prospect of the Inter- 
national Press. But Gandhiji cheered hinf and wrote : “ I have 
already shown you conclusively as in a mathematical problem, 
that the press wont break down. You had agreed with me in that, 
and now you write that the circumstances are unbearable and pre- 
carious. This is exactly what I consider a sign of weakness.” 

Without his advice nothing could be done. In his letter to Shri 
Chhaganlal, dated September 30, 1905, he wrote : “ Anandlal 
writes that it has been decided to hire an office in Mercury Lane. 
If this is so, it should not be done. I feel it essential that I should 
be consulted before such changes are introduced . . . . ” 

He would also take him to task for failing to carefully scan 
through the paper. In his letter dated October 5, 1905, to Shri 
Chhaganlal he wrote : “You still do not publish all the notices 
from the Gazette. There are many notices from page 1705 onwards 
in the current issue of the Gazette ... I have found these from 
a casual glance at the paper . . . carefully scrutinise the Gdzette 
henceforth . . . . ” 

On January 5, 1906, he wrote to Shri Mansukhlal Hiralal Nazar: 
“ I have been discussing with Chhaganlal the question of Tamil 
and Hindi editing .... The more I think, the more I feel that we 
ought for the present to do away both with Tamil and Hindi . . . .” 

But above all, was his meticulous care for proper accounting. 
He was aware of the trust the public had in him in dealing with their 
matter and also the responsibility that this, trust entailed. In his 
letter to Shri Chhaganlal dated February 13, 1906, Gandhiji 
wrote : “ I sent you sometime ago Miss Neufliess’ name as a paid 
subscriber .... Manji N. Ghelani writes to me saying that he 
has not received for the current year numbers two and three 
Please change Mr. Ritch’s address at London .... Your imme- 
diate mainwork is to put the books straight as soon as possible, 
prepare the balance-sheet . . . . ” 

In his letter of April 7, 1906, to Shri Chhaganlal he gave priority 
to book keeping — “ Books must be kept up to date.” In the same 
letter he gave indication of recruiting new hands for the press : 

102 



Managing the Paper 

“ There are so many details to be attended to by me which I cannot 
without information from you. Motilal writes to me saying that 
there is a new arrival from Bombay. His name is Dhoribhai. He 
says he knows the press work well. He offers his services at 
£4 per month and free lodgings. It is worthwhile knowing 
him ” 

Gandhiji was also advising on arrangement of news, etc. and 
typographical setting. He developed such fastidiousness in printing 
that, in later years, he could not stand bad or careless printing. 
An artist in him would revolt : the politician in him would call 
that an 6 outrage ’ and “ perpetration of ‘ Himsa ’ or violence.” 
Like Mr. Aldous Huxley he could say that 44 good printing can 
Create a valuable spiritual state in the reader.” 

In his letter dated February 17, 1906, he wrote to Shri Chha- 
ganlal : "You should divide the Gujarati pages into sections and 
see that, as far as possible, a particular type of material always 
appear in the same place.” 

And again on March 4, the same year : 44 Yon should have the 
same arrangement in the Gujarati section as you have in the English. 
The leading article should come first, followed by the smaller leaders. 
After that should come the translation of articles on important 
subjects etc. followed by letters like the 4 Johannesburg Letter’ 
and last of all, Reuter’s Telegram.” 

Gandhiji also gave detailed instructions regarding advertisements. 
To Shri Chhaganlal he wrote on March 4, 1906 : 44 Discontinue 
the advertisement from Haji Suleman Shah Mahomed as we are 
not going to get it. Reduce Mr. Gool’s to half. He has made a 
special request about it as his condition is not sound at present. 

I see that many advertisements from Cape Town will be discon- 
tinued. But I am not worried in the least by that. We shall get 
others. I am persevering in my efforts.” 

Gandhiji was harping on the same tune. In his letter of April 6, 
1906 , he wrote to Shri Chhaganlal : 44 Why should there be any 
difficulty in giving quotation for full page, half page and quarter- 
page advertisements ? I do not think the rate depends upon the 
quantity of type to be used. When a man hires so much of space, 
we are bound to give him hll he can acquire within that space, so 
long as we can put it in reasonably, so that it should not be difficult 
to give quotation for space. As soon as you give the quotation, 


103 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

it is possible to get a very good advertisement from Cape Town. 
Please therefore do not delay the matter.” 

Later on, as we have seen, he discontinued taking advertisements 
for his papers. 

Even in England, where he went as a deputationist, the Indian 
Opinion was always in his mind. On October 26, 1906, he wrote 
to Mr. H. S. L. Polak : “ I am sending you all the cuttings that I 
consider to be useful. If I can find the time, I shall translate the 
substance of the fight of the women suffragists for the Gujarati 
columns, but if I do not, let Chhaganlal translate them, and make 
an effective use of these valuable cuttings. I have asked 
Mr. Mukerji to deal with the matter in his London letter.” 

He would go into sorts of details. On January 5, 1907, he wrote 
to Shri Chhaganlal : “ . ... Kalyandas is now busy recovering 
the dues here. Many subscribers complain that they do not get 
Indian Opinion regularly .... Kalyandas believes that some of the 
people there pack the copies and stick the wrappers carelessly, 
and they therefore, fall apart and the papers get lost. I am 
writing to Mr. West also about this. We ought to be very careful. 
I think it necessary for someone to supervise the work of 
wrapping 

Earlier on April 6, 1906, he wrote: “ . . . . Ami to understand 
from your letter that you received the Gujarati matter from me 
only on Wednesday ? If so, there must be something terribly 
wrong, for I took special precautions that the matter written on 
Sunday was posted before four o’clock. The matter written on 
Saturday was posted in due time. I have asked you to send me the 
envelopes bearing the dates so that I may have the matter investi- 
gated here . . . . ” 

To Mr. J. C. Mukerji, London, he wrote on October 27, 
1906 :“.... Although you may send your correspondence 
on Friday nights, I think you should send from the Times the 
latest news and Parliamentary reports on Saturdays and post them, 
if necessary, up to the last moment at the General Post Office. 
That is the only way, I think, you will be able to make your corres- 
pondence effective and up to date.” 

Again he reverted to accounts anfi wrote to Shri Chhaganlal 
on January 28, 1907 : “ This is the time for you to give your 
fullest attention to realising the dues and to the account books. 


104 



Managing the Paper 

We must on any account satisfy our customers. If they do not 
get satisfaction just when they have begun to be interested in what 
we write, we shalln’t be able to keep them on the register . . . . ” 

In the same letter he planned for the future of the Press. Wrote 
he : “ . . . -I have therefore decided to send a person to 
England, whom 1 consider the most steadfast of all. He should go 
there with the firm resolve that he should not make a single pie for 
himself from the education he receives but would pass on all the 
benefit of that education to the Press and would accept and live 
on what the Press gave him. You appear to me to be the only 
Indian who has attained to this degree of fitness. . . . Our ultimate 
capital is not the money we have, but our courage, our faith, our 
truthfulness and our ability. If therefore you go to England, your 
intellect remains unspoiled and you return with your physical and 
mental powers strengthened, our capital will have appreciated to 
that extent.” 

How would Gandhiji react to a new feature in the paper ? He 
had an open mind, but would like to move cautiously. Some 
one suggested as part of sales promotion, riddle for the solution 
of which prizes were also provided. Shri Chhaganlal wanted his 
advice and got it (February 7, 1907) : “ I did understand your 
suggestion about the riddles. I do not think it proper to introduce 
the riddles feature so long as we are not in a position to have it regu- 
larly and offer prizes ourselves. What can be the object of the man 
who wants to spend money on this ? How long can he be expected 
to do so ? Moreover, we can hardly expect many to take part in 
the competition. However, you may inquire of your correspon- 
dent if he intends paying for the prizes indefinitely. It would be 
very strange indeed if he wanted to do so. On the other hand, it 
would not be proper for us to start this feature if he agrees to 
give prizes once in a while. You may, however, write to me if you 
have more to say.” 

It may be of interest to know the various methods adopted by 
publishers to boost the sale of papers. “ An example of circulation 
b u ildin g by high-pressure methods, including premiums, that 
exceeded all bounds was the contest in which London, England, 
newspapers engaged some years ago. Lord Beaverbrook, in a page 
one announcement, admitted that between March 1st and June 
30 his London Daily Express spent more than $1,000,000 in gifts 

105 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

and prizes to get new readers or about $2 per new subscriber.” 1 

Gandhiji was resorting to unorthodox ways to promote sale 
for the Indian Opinion. Addressing the readers under the caption — 

4 Suggestion to Readers ’ — he wrote in the Gujarati section of the 
paper on August 24, 1907 : 

“ In our opinion, the Gujarati section of Indian Opinion is at present rendering 
invaluable service. This claim will probably appear exaggerated. However, 
the statement is justified. The Transvaal Indians are at present carrying on a 
heroic struggle and this paper is engaged in furthering that struggle in every 
possible manner. We therefore deem it to be the duly of every Indian to read 
every line of it pertaining to the struggle. Whatever is read is afterwards to be 
acted upon, and the issue, after being read, is to be preserved and not thrown 
away. We recommend that certain articles and translations should be read and 
re-read. Moreover, our cause needs to be discussed in every home in the 
required number of copies of Indian Opinion to their friends and, advising them 
to read them, seek all possible help from them. The present issue includes a 
letter addressed by the Hamidia Islamic Society to Indian Muslims. We think 
it necessary that hundreds of copies of this number should be sent out to 
India/' 

Gandhiji made the following appeal on behalf of the manage- 
ment, to the readers of the Indian Opinion (Gujarati), in its issue 
of October 12, 1907 : 

“ Our readers must have noticed that originally we gave four pages to the 
Gujarati section, but later increased them to 8 and then again to 12. For some 
weeks past the number has gone up to 13, 14 and even 15. Now we intend to 
give 16 pages every time. Owing to several difficulties, it may occasionally 
happen that we cannot give so many pages. Such an increase involves additional 
expenditure to us, though that will not deter us, for our aim is to earn our bread 
through public service. Service is the principal object. Earning a livelihood 
takes the second place. From the time that Indian Opinion was founded till 
today, no one has thought of making money out of It, and no one will ever think 
of it in future. Hence we intend to give to the reader greater benefits in pro- 
portion to the rise in income. If and when there remains any balance after the 
salaries of those connected with the journal reach a certain level, all of it /will 
be spent on public work. 

46 We are convinced that an increased circulation of Indian Opinion will mean 
growth of education and patriotism among us. The journal has at present only 
1,100 subscribers, though the number of readers is much larger. If all readers 
buy their copies, Indian Opinion can render three times better service than 
it does today. We hope it will not be considered unreasonable of us if we expect 
encouragement in proportion to the increase in the number of pages. If those 
who fully realise the value of the service rendered by this paper secure even one 
additional subscriber each, we shall feel heartened thereby and get some help 

1 J. E. Pollard : Principles of Newspaper Management (McGraw-Hill Book 
Company, New York, 1937), p. 91. 


106 



Managing the Paper 

in meeting the increased expenditure consequent upon the increase in the 
number of pages.” 

In India, through the Navajivan Gandhiji proved, that a paper 
could pay its Way through and need not depend on advertisement 
or external monetary help. The proprietors of the Young India 
also came round to his” views. 

The Young India soon started selling in thousands. The press 
was making profit. A correspondent, sttggested that because of the 
profit made, the price of the Young India and the Navajivan should 
be reduced simultaneously. It could be printed on cheap paper as 
well. But Gandhiji disagreed and said : “It is a bad policy to print 
cheap newspaper by making profits from other work. I want the 
readers to be just as much interested in the upkeep of the papers 
as the manager and the editor are.” 

Was he allowing profit at the cost of the poor people ? No. 
He knew that only those who could well afford it were paying 
for his papers. And why should they not pay ? If there is any 
profit made by the papers, that could be utilized for some other 
purpose — for the service of the community. In fact, earlier, i.e. 
on April 3, 1 924, he said the profits of the paper run by him would 
be distributed for all India work and to the propagation of Hindi. 

He would never agree to spend money unnecessarily. He would 
see that money was always spent on a worthy cause. He would not, 
as he said in a message, spend an anna if it was not necessary ; 
but if it was, he would not hesitate to spend a crore of rupees. 

After 1920, Gandhiji was the undisputed leader, of the Congress. 
As an organization. Congress was expanding fast. The message of 
the Congress was publicized through the cloumns of the papers in 
the country. But what about outside publicity ? Some suggested 
special bulletins or papers to be published at Congress expense, 
from abroad, for educating the outside world. That was quite 
an expensive affair. But something had to be done. 

Gandhiji came out with a solution. He gave an alternative sug- 
gestion to the Congress which not only showed his interest in pub- 
licity, particularly external publicity, but his consideration for public 
money and the best way of utilizing, that. Special bulletins, he 
thought, could be brought out and attached to the Young India 
whose circulation was then 25,000. A nominal charge would be 
made. for this, extra supplement to cover part of, whole of the 


107 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 


expenditure on the bulletin. His idea was to send such bulletins 
mainly “ to the chief news agencies of the world By this method 
maximum result with minimum expenditure could be achieved. 

In this context, it might be of interest to note that Gandhiji, a 
former “ Durban, Johannesburg and South African correspon- 
dent ” of the India in England, recommended the winding up of 
the paper as the return did not commensurate with the expenditure 
made. In the 20 October, 1921 issue of the Young India he 
wrote : “ For the maintenance of India we pay — i.e., the poor 
people of India pay — £1,800 a year . . . the paper had a che- 
quered career but was never a success from the propagandist point 
of view. It has never had a constructive policy. To squander 
£ 1,800 on a 3 d. weekly with a circulation of 500, and to spend 
another £ 1,500 on establishment charges, £3,000 in all, looks like 
reckless extravagance.” 

Gandhiji would plan weeks, if not months, ahead for the arrange- 
ment of the matters for the Young India or the Ndvajivan. Entries 
in his diary of January 18, 1925 indicated his plan for the Young 
India of 30 July 1925. 

Here are the entries : 


Young India 30th July 

Congress and Political parties 17 

An insult and Charkha 1 

Too costly 7 

Deshbandhu and spinning (not clear) 5 
Congress corruption 3 

China's plight 3 

The Crisis in China 8 

Misunderstanding 4 

All-India Spinning Association 2 

G.B.M. Centenary 3 

Varnashram & Untouchability 9 

Congress unemployed 10 

Currency and cotton 16 

Agriculture and Khaddar 17 


Earlier, on March 12, 1922, he was giving instructions to Shri 
Krishnadas : “ The correspondence, reports etc. should come 
to you for disposal. Unless it is too much for you, all articles must 
finally pass through your hands. I have several names as Satis 

108 



Managing the Paper 

Babu, Rajagopalachari, you, Swaih Kaka, Devdas. It would be 
better now if Satis Babu gave you the permission to sign articles. 
The room should be entirely at your disposal. You should lock the 
verandah door from inside. Fix up the whole office there. Hordikar 
and the bulletin staff should be there for work but under your 
permission.” 

Gandhiji was very methodical in whatever subject he laid his 
hands on. He knew that mere good writing was not enough. He 
must see that the paper was published and despatched in time, 
and that proper account was maintained. He used to take the 
best out of his associates in running the paper. 

The Swarajya, incidentally, was not accepting, like the Young 
India any advertisement. It gained support from the people from 
the beginning. It had a group of brilliant writers. But after twelve 
years it closed down for financial reasons. It had no solid financial 
ground to stand the stress and strain of the time. Moreover, it 
subordinated journalism to politics. “ They recruited staff, some- 
what in the manner of the Congress collecting volunteers ; and 
they utilised the national enthusiasm for securing low-paid staff.” 2 

The Harijan started its publication. On January 25, 1933, 
Gandhiji wrote to Shri G. D. Birla : “ Here is the estimate for the 
proposed English edition of Harijan Sevak. As you can see, it is 
a very moderate sum. I proposed to bring out, to start with, 
10,000 copies. Then if there is not that demand, we might slow 
down. My policy, as you know, is that I shall not handle the paper 
except to make it self-supporting. If it does not become self-sup- 
porting, I should conclude that there is inefficient management 
or editing, or that there is no public demand for such a paper.” 3 

And again on March 9, 1933, he wrote to Shri Birla: “ The 
English Harijan has become self-supporting already. The subs- 
cription received to date from street sales and annual subscribers 
leave a balance without the aid of the Rs. 1,044 from the Central 
Board. This money, can, therefore, be refunded. . . . My enquiry 
is merely with a view to saving commission on money order, draft 
or cheque.” 

* S. Natarajan : A History of the Press in India (Asia Publishing House, 
Bombay, 1962), p. 188. 

* O. D. Birla : In the Shadow of the Mahatma (Orient Longmans, Bombay, 
1953), p. 97. 


109 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

He would, as well, plan for the refund of money to the subs- 
cribers of the paper who paid in advance. In the Harijan of Novem- 
ber 10, 1940, he wrote : “ One word as to the practical 

question. You are a subscriber to one of the weeklies I do not 
know when, if ever, they will be resumed. You are entitled to the 
return of the unused balance of your subssription. On receipt of a 
post card from you to the Manager, Harijan , Poona, for a refund, 
a money order for it will be sent to you. Those who do not ask for 
a refund will have their paper sent to them if it is resumed. If it 
is not, the unused balance will be spent in covering any loss that 
may be caused in winding up. And then the balance, if any, will 
be sent to the Harijan Sevak Sangh for use in the service of Hari- 
jans. If Harijan is not resumed within six months, it will be deemed 
to have been finally wound up. Meanwhile good-bye.” 

His punctuality in bringing out the journal regularly in time has 
been referred to. He succeeded in doing so throughout his life 
because of his meticulous care for details. He took particular pains 
to see that materials for the press are sent in time. He used to 
keep an exact time table of the working of the Post Office or the 
Railways. 

Shri Pyarelal wrote : 

“ Despatching of matter for the Harijan weeklies always used to be a bit 
of an exciting adventure, when Gandhiji used to be constantly on the move. 
It involved poring over railway maps and columns of Bradshaw and Indian 
Post and Telegraph Guide, checking up of train timings and train connection 
not to mention the exigencies of late arrivals and erratic habits of certain trains. 
It made some of Gandhiji’s staff fair experts in the arcana of India Postal world. 
For instance, Gandhiji could tell with exact precision the time the post would 
take to be delivered at particular place by the various alternative routes. Once 
in the course of Gandhi-Irwin negotiations a question arose as to whether a 
particular letter which Lord Irwin had sent to Gandhiji had been despatched 
in time. Lord Irwin maintained that it must have been. ‘ Then it ought to have 
reached me before I left Bardoli ’ replied Gandhiji. ‘ You better make an 
enquiry in your office. There is bound to have been some despatching delay.*. 
And so in the end it proved to be ." 4 

It was a special pride of Gandhiji that the papers he was asso- 
ciated with — for about half a century — never got delayed. The 
publication date was always kept up even though he was constantly 
on tour in India. He even went abroad to Burma, Ceylon and 

4 Pyarelal: Mahatma Gandhi'. The Last Phase (Navajivan Publishing House, 
Ahmedabad). 


110 



Managing the Paper 

England. But his papers were coming out in time. The way the 
first issue of the Harijan was brought out after his release from 
jail as recorded by Shri Pyarelal has already been narrated. 

Gandhiji was punctual in everything and demanded the same 
sternly from his associates. Kaka Saheb Kalelkar recalled an 
interesting incident of tits Swami, who was requested by Gandhiji 
to set right the Navajivan Press. He failed to turn up at the ap- 
pointed date. Gandhiji coolly remarked : “ Either he is dead or 
has fallen ill. No one can promise to come on a certain day and 
then fail to come if he can possibly help it.’' Gandhiji was correct 
hi studying the nature of his colleagues whom he selected for parti- 
cular jobs. Swami got sick in the train and had to detrain at Surat 
for medical aid. 

“ One day I went to the Press. There was Swami, plunged in work as usual, 
a glass of milk beside him, some ripe and luscious bananas lying before him and, 
proof after proof coming into his hands from the press. He would break off 
a bit of banana with his left hand, and correct proofs with his right. The proof 
dealt with, he would take a hasty sip of the milk. The sip taken, back to his 
proof again. This kind of thing used to go on for three or four days at a stretch. 
No time to bathe. No time for anything at all — sleeping where he worked. 

“ This was the way he was working when he received a card from Bapu 
(Gandhiji), despatched from some place in North India. It ran like this : 

‘ You are looking after Navajivan so well, that I have no cause to worry. I 
hope your work progresses satisfactorily.’ Swami was greatly puzzled. Why 
had Bapu sent him such a card ? ‘ I have complained of no difficulties, nor is 
it likely that any one has complained about me.' He wondered and pondered, 
and then he suddenly remembered. * Oh, 'he said, ‘ of course, that is what it is : 
I promised to work for the Navajivan Press for six months, and the six months 
are up to-day. Oh ! the clever old ‘ bania 1 ' This is the way of getting that 
promise renewed. I had completely forgotten that I came here for six months 
only. But that old man never forgets such things. Look at the way he is binding 
me over for a further period ! Jivatram (Kripalani) is quite right when he says 
that that old man is the wiliest bird you could come'across in a day’s journey!” 5 

Such was the atmosphere in which co-workers of Gandhiji for 
the paper worked. This was their relationship. 

Any editor could reproduce his articles. He insisted on their 
being ' common property.’ He was against copyright. In the 
Harijan of February 25, 1933, he wrote I do not believe 

in presenting the public with free literature on any subject. It may 
be ever so cheap, but never free. I believe in the old Sanskrit 

5 Kaka Kalelkar : Stray Glimpses of Bapu (Navajivan Publishing House, 
Ahmedabad, 1950), pp. 93-95. 


Ill 



Mahatma Gandhi -The Journalist 

proverb 6 Knowledge is for those who would know \ But these are 
my personal views. I can only tender my advice to the organisa- 
tions and organisers. There is no copyright in Harijan. Enter- 
prising vernacular newspapers will publish their own editions of 
Harijan . Some have already written to me of their intention to 
do so. I can prevent no one. I can only "plead with every one to 
follow the advice which I have tendered and which is based on 
considerable experience.’ 5 

He published a letter from Sliri Satish Kalelkar in the Harijan 
of June 15, 1940 and gave his own views on copyright : 

41 4 Being modem in my views and rather materialistic in temperament ”, thus 
wrote Satish Babu, “ I have always been sceptical about your views on the 
question, of copyright. If I remember right, you needed some persuasion from 
friends before you consented to hold the copyright and save the profits on your 
Autobiography for the sake of the A.I.S.A. I agree that a seeker of truth should 
welcome Its spread, and not put obstacles by insisting on the copyright. But 
surely there is a limit to this liberality, and an unscrupulous exploitation of it 
ought to be prevented. 

44 Perhaps you are aware that Harijan comes in very handy to the evening 
papers on Saturday and morning papers on Sunday. Some editors, not content 
with the 4 whole week-end off \ draw liberally on Harijan even on Monday 
morning. 

44 1 am not discussing here the possibility of raising the already excellent 
sales of Harijan by stopping the reproduction of articles in other papers, nor 
am I opposed to your views that truth should be spread widely. There are other 
results, however, which must not be ignored. Some Anglo-Indian papers, 
which are not exactly in love with the nationalist movement, sometimes repro- 
duce convenient excerpts, and sometimes one side only, of the issues discussed 
in a series of articles in Harijan . Take for example the Ajmer case. The Anglo- 
Indian papers, that published an account of the incident and your cautious 
advice to the Ajmer workers to restrain themselves, took care to publish the 
Commissioner's 4 explanation ' in that connection ; but they did not consider 
it a part of the 4 gentleman's agreement * with regard to the free reproduction 
of articles from Harijan y to publish the final and irrefutable reply from your 
pen. Your unwillingness in accusing before all facts are known, and your 
deliberate moderation and openness are interpreted as 4 Gandhi's admission *. 
The 4 awkward ' articles that appear later in Harijan are safely ignored ! 

44 Perhaps you would argue that truth needs no tomtomming, and that it can 
never be suppressed in spite of a conspiracy of silence in papers. But surely 
one may not be a party to the spread of untruth by indirectly consenting to the 
publication of half-truths. Don't you agree that you should qualify your free 
permission so as to stop misleading excerpts and only a few of a series of 
articles being reproduced in other papers ? ” 

44 There Is much force in what young Kalelkar says,” wrote Gandhiji, 


112 



Managing the Pape? 

tk I own that often my articles suffer from consideration. They are made to 
yield a meaning I had never intended. The Ajmer illustration quoted by my 
correspondent is clinching. This matter of copyright has been often brought 
before me. But I have not the heart to copyright my articles. I know that there 
is a financial loss. But as Harijan is not published for profit I am content so 
long as there is no deficit. I must believe that in the end my self-denial must 
serve the cause of truth/' * 

And again on July 13, 1940, in the Harijan under the caption 
4 Copyright * he wrote : 

“It is strange that what I would not do in response to the advice of a corres- 
pondent I have to do almost immediately after the refusal though, I feel, for a 
very cogent reason. Since my main article will henceforth be written in Gujarati, 

I would not like their unauthorised translations appearing in the Press. 1 have 
suffered much from mistranslations when I used to write profusely in Gujarati 
and had no time myself to produce simultaneous English translations. I 
have arranged this time for such translation in English and Hindustani. I 
would therefore ask editors and publishers kindly to regard English and Hin- 
dustani translation rights as reseived. I have no doubt that my request will be 
respected." 

There had been comments on Gandhiji’s attitude towards 
machines. The popular belief is that Gandhiji was against all types 
of machines. But it was not correct. He used a watch to keep time. 
A thermometer, to measure temperature, was also handy with 
him. Similar useful things, which do not harm Indian village 
industries, were used by him. He talked over the telephone as and 
when necessary. There were early pictures of Gandhiji showing 
him riding a bicycle. There were similar pictures showing him using 
a microscope. 

The following note published in the Harijan of June 22, 1935, by 
Shri Mahadev Desai, Secretary to Gandhiji, would give an idea of 
his attitude towards machinery. 

66 A socialist holding a brief for machinery asked Gandhiji if the village indus- 
tries movement was not meant to oust all machinery/* 

“ Ts not this wheel a machine ? * was the counter-question that Gandhiji, 
who was then spinning, gave in reply. ’* 

“ ‘ I do not mean this machine, but I mean bigger machinery/ 

“ 6 Do you mean Singer's Sewing machine ? That, too, is protected by the 
village industries movement, and for that matter any machinery which does 
not deprive masses of men of the opportunity to labour, but which helps the 
individual and adds to his efficiency, and which a man can handle at will without 
being its slave/ 

“ 6 But what about the great inventions ? You would have nothing to do 
with electricity?* 

“ ‘ Who said so ? If we could have electricity in every home, 1 should not 

113 


G— 8 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

mind villagers plying their implements and tools with the help of electricity. 
But then the village communities or the State would own power houses, just as 
they have their grazing pastures. But where there is no electricity and no machi- 
nery, what are idle hands to do ? Will you give them work, or would you have 
their owners cut them down for want of work ?’ 

“ ‘ I would prize every invention of science made for the benefit of all. 1 
should not care for the asphyxating gases capable of killing masses of men at a 
time. The heavy machinery for work of public utility which cannot be under- 
taken by human labour has its inevitable place, but all that would be owned 
by the State and used entirely for the benefit of the people. I can have no con- 
sideration for machinery which is meant either to enrich the few at the expense 
of the many, or without cause to displace the useful labour of many.’ 

“ ‘ But even you as a socialist would not be in favour of an indiscriminate 
use of machinery. Take printing presses. They will go on. Take surgical 
instruments. How can one make them with one’s hands ? Heavy machinery 
would be needed for them. But there is no machinery for the cure of idleness, 
but this,’ said Gandhi ji, pointing to his spinning wheel. * I can work it whilst 
I am carrying on this conversation with you, and am adding a little to the wealth 
of the country. This machine no one can oust ” 

As a journalist and publicist, he was in early years taking help 
of the typewriter. In his letter to Messrs. Nazar and Khan (June 3, 
1902) he wrote : “ Soon after reaching Bombay, I invested, in a 
typewriter, Rs. 200. The machine has been wholly used for public 
work.” 

On November 17, 1908, from London, he wrote to the Manager 
of the Empire Typewriting Company : “ With reference to the 
1 Empire ’ hired by me, I shall keep it for a month as from the 
12th instant. I understand that the monthly terms are 15. You 
have already received 7/d and I now enclose cheque for the 
balance. I shall thank you to let me have the receipt.” 

It appears that in the later period he was averse to typewriters. 
In his letter to Mr. Richard Gregg from Nandi Hill, dated May 
29, 1927, he wrote : “ . . . because of my dislike of typewriters, 
if 1 could possibly write with my own hand, I would inflict an illegi- 
ble hand in preference to having my letters typed or typing them 
myself. . . . The typewriter is a cover for indifference and lazi- 
ness. . . . And the inroads that the typewriter is making have 
all but to destroy magnificent art of calligraphy. I wonder • if you 
have seen old handwritten manuscript when people used to pour 
forth their very soul into their work.” 6 

• Gandhi Marg (Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, Rajghat, New Delhi, October, 1959), 
Vol. in. No. 4, p. 279. 

114 



Managing the Paper 

Gandhiji would not stand wastage in whatever form it might be. 
He would like to utilize even the used envelopes, unused portions 
of letters, wrappers on packets or any piece of tom paper that was 
handy. He would keep notes, dictate instructions, or keep accounts 
on such scraps. Each one of these, addressed to his numerous 
colleagues and followers, were of great importance, as they indi- 
cated his thinking. Unfortunately, because of their very nature, 
many of these scraps were lost. But those which have been pre- 
served would show his mastery of details and his clear instructions 
on writing, editing, printing and despatching of paper. On Mondays 
— days for silence — these scraps would be much more voluminous, 

46 Entering Mahatmaji's room at mid-day, I found him smiling all by himself 
in a gleeful mood. As soon as I entered, he said, "Krishnadas, so many telegrams 
come to me daily, and yet not knowing what to do with the forms, T used to tear 
them. It gave me pain, and I was thinking on what use they could bo put to. 
At last I have hit upon a plan/ He then took up a form and showed me how to 
make a cover out of it. He then directed me to prepare envelopes from th • 
telegraph forms received by us every day. I have begun to make those covers, 
and he has been using them for the purpose of his letters. He has given them 
the name of 4 Patent Envelope \ He finds so much genuine pleasure in using 
such covers that he would not touch envelopes of far superior quality even when 
they would be placed before him/' 7 

Shri K. G. Mashruwala mentioned 6 small things “ that he learnt 
from Gandhiji, 

46 This was perhaps when 1 met him for the first time in Champaran in 1917. 
He asked me to copy out a passage from the Indian Year Book on a sheet of 
foolscap paper. As the paper was larger than I needed I folded it up, made a 
crease by passing my fingers over it, and began to tear it along the crease. 
Gandhiji stopped me, and asked me to cut it with a knife. 4 When you tear 
along a crease with your hands/ he said, 4 fibres appear along the edges. They 
jar upon the eye. You should make it a rule always to divide the paper with a 
paper-cutter or an ordinary knife/ 

44 Once he showed me how to open up the flap of an envelope, the gum of which 
had got stuck. He introduced a fountain pen into a slight opening under the 
flap, and quickly rolled it round the edge. He said : 4 Do you see how it opens 
up without injuring the paper ? This is a method which everyone should know/ 
44 He was displeased if he saw a letter placed in an envelope with irregular 
foldings. He said : 4 When you fold your letter you must see that the edges 
coincide properly and the fold is regular. An irregular folding creates a bad 
impression upon the receiver about you. It looks slovenly/ t,s 
7 Krlshnadas : Seven Months with Mahatma Gandhi (S. Ganesan Sc Co., 
Madras, 1928), p. 117. 

a K. G. Mashruwala : Reminiscences of Gandhiji 5 Ed. by Chandrashankar 
Shukla (Vora & Go., Bombay, 1949), p. 173. 


115 



6 


Curse of Advertisement 


Addressing a meeting of the * Friends of India ’ Club, at Dundee, 
on October 7, 1953, Mr. B. G. Kher, the then Indian High Com- 
missioner in the United Kingdom, spoke about the weeklies edited 
by Gandhiji, and remarked : “ They were unique in that they were 
entirely without a single advertisement and thus free from reliance 
on external commercial support for their circulation.” 1 

But Gandhiji had to secure external commercial support at the 
early stage of his journalistic career. The Indian Opinion, in the 
beginning, was making all-out effort to secure advertisements. 
It announced, in the first issue : “To Europeans and Indians alike 
it would serve as the best advertising medium. ...” 

Advertisements were mostly from resident merchants, for sale 
of their products. The advertising rates were : Single Column 
2s 6d per inch ; Double Column 5s per inch ; repeat half charges. 
One inch single column, for one year, would cost £ 2 10s. The 
Indian Opinion further intimated : “ Liberal discount for standing 
advertisements for long periods. For further particulars : write to 
the Manager.” 

Reproduced below is a sample of an advertisement of the press 
from where the Indian Opinion was published : 

“ FOR ARTISTIC PRINTING 
TRY THE 

INTERNATIONAL PRINTING PRESS ” 

Advertisements were miscellaneous in character, from dried 

1 Gandhi Marg (Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, Rajghat, New Delhi, October, 1957), 
Vol. I, No. 4, p. 276. 

116 



Curse of Advertisement 

fish to cheap washing soap. Sometimes advertisements were secured 
from parties in India keen on selling goods in South Africa. 

But slowly Gandhiji was changing his mind regarding acceptance 
of advertisements in the paper from practical and ideological points 
of view. 

In his book Satyagraha in South Africa Gandhiji spoke about 
his departure in policy. He fotmd that some of the best men, his 
co-workers, were tied down only for securing advertisements. 
Their services to the community, which could otherwise have been 
even more substantial, were thus restricted. Then there was the 
problem of deciding as to which advertisements should be accepted 
or rejected. Sometimes an advertisement could not be refused, 
even if the management so desired, as the advertiser, an important 
person, had to be obliged. Years later, in 1916, when he, from 
India, sent his son Shri Manilal to edit the Gujarati edition of the 
Indian Opinion, Gandhiji wrote : “ I have never desired to take 
advertisements. ’ ’ 2 

Realizing outstanding payments for advertisements published, 
involved much wastage of time and energy. Last but not the least 
of all was the spirit of service which dominated his entire activities 
in running the paper. If the Indian community in South Africa 
did not feel the necessity for the paper, better close it. The paper 
was for them — to voice their grievances against discriminating 
laws. It was by no means a commercial venture to make money. 
If there were adequate subscribers, there was no necessity of adver- 
tisement at all. 

Gradually Gandhiji was limiting the space and scope for adver- 
tisements. Those of luxury goods or concerning entertainment 
were stopped long before the Satyagraha movement started. At 
the time of the movement the number of active workers for the 
paper dwindled and so, perforce, advertisements were stopped 
altogether. Gandhiji explained that the additional columns thus 
saved would be devoted for better coverage of the Satyagraha 
movement. He appealed to the readers to patronize the journal 
liberally and see that it continued for the service of the community. 

Mr. Henry Polak narrated the decision to stop all advertisements 
in the following dramatic manner : 

“ It was about this time that Gandhiji amazed me by informing me one day 

* Indian Opinion — Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Number (March, 1948), p. 22. 

117 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

that he had come to the conclusion that Indian Opinion should no longer depend 
upon advertisements for its support. It seemed to me the death-knell of the 
paper, and I asked him whether that meant that he intended to close it down. 
‘ By no means,' was his reply. * Let us try to get a substantial increase in the 
number of subscribers to make tip for what we shall lose by dropping the adver- 
tisements.’ ‘ But I said, ‘ how are we to do this ? ’ ‘ Well,’ he replied, ‘ you 
can yourself travel around the country and get to knew the Indian people better. 
You can bring the paper to the notice of many who are not already subscribers, 
and if you can convince them that they ought, they will certainly persuade 
others to subscribe. Explain that this is a non-profit venture for the com- 
munity’s service, and that all the workers responsible for it are performing a 
labour of love.' .... This was, indeed, the fact. I set out on a most interesting 
series of journeys . . . which gained for the paper considerable number of 
new and enthusiastic subscribers at what proved a critical period of the commu- 
nity’s history." 3 

[f exigency primarily compelled Gandhiji to stop securing adver- 
tisements for the Indian Opinion, it was, in the case of the Young 
India, a calculated move. He had now come to a definite view in 
respect of advertisements after weighing the good and bad points. 
Bad points far out-weighed the good ones. In the first issue of the 
Young India October 8, 1919, Gandhiji wrote: “. . . . The proprietors 
of the Young India have decided to give up advertisements. 
I know that they have not been, entirely, if at all, converted to 
my view that a newspaper ought to be conducted without adver- 
tisements. But they are willing to let me make the experiment.” 

It was an experiment for the proprietors. But so far as Gandhiji 
was concerned, it was a decision which he arrived at after years 
of work in the field of journalism. He appealed to his readers 
to make the venture a success and make the Young India free from 
the curse of advertisements. He continued : “ The Gujarati Nava- 
jivan has already demonstrated the possibility of conducting a 
newspaper without advertisements soiling its pages.” 

Why was Gandhiji against advertisement? First and foremost 
was his consideration for social service. If a product is good, why 
should the producer spend money to advertise that product ? All 
journals should advocate the utility of such product for the benefit 
of the community. Was not the aim of journalism service ? Kaka 
Saheb Kalelkar mentioned about giving publicity to, through the 
columns of his paper, a pumping set which Gandhiji was convinced 

* H. S. L. Polak : Incidents of Gandhiji's Life, Ed. by Chandrashankar 
.Shukla (Vora & Co., Bombay, 1949), pp. 237-238. 

118 



Curse of Advertisement 

would bring about immense good to the rural peopled 

If it was something which will help the farmers, who constitute 
the overwhelming majority in the country, he would publish special 
write-ups. He would advertise, on his own, the improved oil crusher 
which could crush more oil ; he would talk about hand pounding 
machine for husking paddy which would give producer more 
vitaminous rice with less exertion. He and his co-workers would 
endlessly talk about hand spinning and hand weaving gadgets 
which could make quick turn over. Any improvement on any 
of the existing looms or spindle would get prominence in the 
paper. Any invention in this line would be heralded with fan-fare. 
A special prize of one lakh of rupees was announced — in the shape 
of regular advertisement on behalf of the All-India Spinners Asso- 
ciation — for a spinning wheel which would revolutionize the 
quantity and quality of production. Incidentally, the Young India 
was also advertising Gandhiji’s books, particularly his autobio- 
graphy, Shri Mahadev Desai’s book on Bardoli Satyagraha and 
similar useful works. 

For Khadi, he would go all the way to propagate it. He would 
even recommend any media for publicizing its use etc. The foll- 
owing question and answer appearing in the Harijan of June 1, 
1940, would demonstrate his attitude on the subject. 

“ Q. ‘Do you approve of the policy that is being followed by the Charkha 
Sangh in some places, of pushing the sale of Khadi by the use, for instance, 
of loud speakers, popular gramophone records and the like ? Don’t you think 
that advertising, apart from supplying the necessary information about the 
marketing of Khadi is undignified and incompatible with the Khadi spirit? " 

“A. ‘I see nothing wrong or undignified in making use of loud speakers, etc., 
to popularise khadi. Through these means, too, one does no more than give the 
prices and other information about khadi. It will be certainly undignified and 
worse if false information is given whether with or without the use of loud 
speakers and the like.’ ” 

If it was a product which would ultimately help the people, 
why should the manufacturer spend money in advertising that ? 
If the paper could not bring that to the notice of its readers, what 
for was the paper there ? 

“ I would be no party to the advertisement of tooth-brushes, 
even when they are made in India. I should declare my preference 
for the tooth-stick ” — he wrote in the Harijan. He was convinced 

Mentioned in the course of his talk with the author. 

U9 



Mahcttma Gandhi — The Journalist 

that ‘ neem ’ and ‘ babul ’ sticks, which nature provided in plenty, 
were more useful to India’s teeming millions than costly brushes. 

It may be of interest, in this context, to recall the findings on 
advertisement by the Press Commission which published its report 
in 1954. It estimated the total advertisement revenue of the daily 
papers to Rs. 5 crores per year. The Commission could not for 
certain difficulties, find out the same for weeklies and other perio- 
dicals. On the basis of the reports of the Advertising Agencies, 
the Commission expected the total value of advertisements in the 
periodicals to be about Rs. 2 crores. Of this total Government 
advertisement would be round about 7 per cent. 

Discussing the nature of advertisement, the Commission came 
to the following conclusion : “ Taking the total volume of consu- 
mer advertising, it will be seen that quite a large proportion is of 
items which would appeal only to those who are comparatively 
well-to-do. The advertisements of automobiles and accessories, 
refrigerators, washing machines, etc., watches, clocks and jewel- 
lery, transport, airlines, come to nearly one-third of the total.” 5 

These advertisements were mainly inserted in city papers and 
journals and meant for sophisticated people. Articles beneficial 
to the rural people hardly find, even now, much space. 

Incidentally, advertisements in newspapers up to ’thirties were 
mostly on imported goods. Cigarettes were the main item, soap 
coming close to it. Newspaper representatives had to go round to 
secure advertisements from the parties. Since the Second World 
War, the parties, whether Government or non-government, became 
conscious of the importance of advertisement. 

Gandhiji supported his contention by the economic theory that 
advertisements cost money, thus enhancing the price of the product. 
That was indirect taxation. India’s poor people could not afford it. 

Advertisement is a huge national waste when a sizeable portion 
of the national wealth is diverted for this doubtful rivalry among 
manufacturers. Mr. John Kenneth Galbraith, in his book Affluent 
Society, suggested that this wealth could be better utilized for poorer 
sections of the people. Competition between advertisers raises the 
price of the product and the general public suffer. It creates new 
demand by stimulating want, without correspondingly opening 

8 India Government : Report of the Press Commission (Manager of Publi- 
cations, Delhi, 1954), Part I, p. 81, 

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Curse of Advertisement 

avenues for people to earn more. Wrote Gandhiji in the Young 
India of August 10, 1919 : “What financial gain it would be to 
the country if there was for each province only one advertisement 
medium — ■ not a newspaper containing innocent, unvarnished 
notices of things useful for the public. But for our criminal indiffe- 
rence, we would decline* to pay the huge indirect taxation by way 
of mischievous advertisements.” 

It also, through psychological approach, coerces people to buy 
things which, otherwise, they would not. Probing and mani- 
pulating of consumers’ desires for goods is helped by psychologists, 
called by American advertisement consultants as motivational 
analysis. They have found their expert advice profitable as it helps 
in boosting up sales. Psychologists have become oracles of 
American business as they are successfully probing the minds of 
buyers. They are trying to prove that sales of goods are governed 
by the libido. 

Dr. Dichter, in his publication — Motivation — said in April, 
1956 : 

“ We now are confronted with the problem of permitting the average American 
to feel moral even when he is flirting, even when he is spending, even when he is 
not saving, even when he is taking two vacations a year and buying a second 
or third car. One of the basic problems of this prosperity, then, is to give people 
the sanction and justification to enjoy it and to demonstrate that the hedonistic 
approach to his life is a moral, not an immoral, one. This permission given to 
the consumer to enjoy his life freely, the demonstration that he is right in sur- 
rounding himself with products that enrich his life and give him pleasure must 
be one of the central themes of every advertising display and sales promotion 
plan.” 

This playing up of the part of the tempter is an unhealthy sign 
in any society. The famous historian, Mr. Arnold Toynbee, put it 
rather forcefully and called the whole game of advertising as 
4 unchristian.’ 44 A considerable part of our ability, energy, time 
and material resources is being spent today on inducing us to . . . 
find the money for buying material goods that we should never 
have dreamed of wanting had we been left to ourselves.” Prof. 
Toynbee concluded by saying that Christ would have rejected 
“this skilfully engineered besetting temptation.” 6 

Advertisement creates systematic dissatisfaction. Take the 
example of cosmetics. Advertisement promises that use of such 

• Time (New York, September 22, 1961), p. 74. 

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Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

and such product will make women more beautiful. Constant 
dinning of this idea into their ears make women critical and anxious 
about their appearance. They wistfully look for advertised goods 
and often switch on to new products. There is no end to this. 

By playing upon weaknesses and frailities, house-wives are 
encouraged to be non-ralional and impulsive in buying family 
food. Customers are treated as voters. It would be difficult to 
lend moral support to advertisements which exploit human beings 
of deepest sexual sensitiveness and yearning for commercial 
purposes. 

But can advertisements create artificial desire and demand ? 
There is another school of thought which will argue that advertise- 
ments can only stimulate existing desires by telling people what 
goods can be had, what they are like or what satisfaction they are 
likely to bring. It helps in the mass demand for products which, 
in turn, employs people in thousands. Mass distribution and mass 
buying help in building up an affluent society and people should 
work hard to achieve it. People should not aspire for a bare sub- 
sistence and should not admit that poverty is an essential condition 
of human existence. 

The Indian Society of Advertisers in one of its recent statements 
claimed that advertisements play a tremendous part in building 
up mass participation for mass benefit. The whole scheme of 
insurance which is the basis of security in industry, in commerce 
and in family life draws its immense strength and solidity, the 
society claims, from members on participation. The more people 
insure, the more is the risk divided, the greater is the individual 
benefit both in lowered premiums and maximum indemnities. 

Gandhiji objected to advertisements more on moral and ethical 
grounds. It became difficult, as he experienced in South Africa, 
to draw a line between what is bad or beneficial advertisement. 
Once a newspaper agreed to take advertisements, there was no 
limit to that. In their quest for money, they published indecent 
and harmful advertisements. This was, according to him, not the 
objective of journalism. Rather than serving the community, such 
action would run to the detriment of its interest. As far as the 
Young India or the Harijan was concerned, he would come down 
with a heavy hand on indecent or obscene advertisement and all 
along crusaded against it. 

122 



Curse of Advertisement 

In the editorial of the Young India of October 8, 1919, to which 
reference was made earlier, he said : “ Some readers who are 

interested in the purity of the paper sent me a most interesting 
extract from a well known newspaper. I have refused to soil the 
pages of Nctvajivan by reproducing it. Anyone turning advertise- 
ment of leading magazines can verify the truth of my criticism.” 

The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines obscenity as 
“indecency or lewdness (especially of language)”. Indecency 
and obscenity are more or less synonyms and are used for the same 
purpose. To quote the Dictionary : “ Indecency ” is a “ quality 
savouring of obscenity 

The Geneva Conference of 1923 on the Suppression of the 
Circulation of, and Traffic in. Obscene Publications could not 
satisfactorily define the word ‘ obscene In India there is no 
statutory definition of the word though the Obscene Publication 
Act 1925 was enacted to give effect to the Geneva Convention 
recommendation of 1923. Gandhiji's agitation had some effect 
in the sense that Government’s attention was drawn to this vital 
problem. The Act, among others, set down that whoever “ advertise 
or makes known by any means whatsoever that any person is 
engaged or is ready to engage in any act which is an offence under 
this Section or that any such obscene object can be procured from 
or through any person . . . shall be punished with imprison- 
ment . . . . ” 

But though the statutory provisions were made, no statutory 
definition, was given to the word * obscene ’. Even as late as 1940, 
in a case in Calcutta, 7 the observation was made that picture of a 
nude woman was not per se * obscene when it would shock or 
offend the taste of a decent man. If such a picture does not excite 
the sensuality or impure thoughts to an average person, they are 
outside the purview of the provisions of the Penal Code. It was 
observed : “ For the purpose of deciding whether a picture is 
obscene or not, one has to consider to a great extent the sur- 
rounding circumstances, the pose, the posture, the suggestive 
element in the picture, the person into whose hands it is likely 
to fall etc.” 

Because of the conflict in attitude between the conservative 

7 Emperor vs. Sree Ram Saksena, Indian Law Reporter (Calcutta, 1940), 
Vol. I, p. 581. 


123 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

outlook on sex prevalent in India and the influence of English 
judicial decisions in British Indian Courts, the offenders, even 
if they were brought to court, which was one in thousand on the 
most optimistic estimate, would go scot free. In some cases they 
could take shelter under the exception clause of the Act which 
laid down, “ This Section does not extend to any book, pamphlet, 
writing, drawing or painting kept or used bona fide for religious 
purpose represented on or in any temple, or on any car used for the 
conveyance of idols, or kept or used for any religious purpose.” 

Under the heading ‘ Indecent Advertisements,’ Gandhiji wrote, 
in the Young India of June 25, 1927 : “ .... I glance upon 
advertisement sheets of newspapers. They are sometimes painfully 
instructive. I see often in respectable papers advertisements of 
lewd nature. The headlines are deceptive. In one case the heading 
was ‘ Book relating to Yoga.’ Looking at the contents of the 
advertisement, I discovered hardly one book, out of ten, having 
any reference to yogas ; all the rest had reference to sex suggesting 
that young men and women may indulge in sexual pleasures 
without coming to grief, promising to divulge secret remedies. 
I came upon worse things which I do not propose to copy in these 
pages.” He was pained to see the editors not averse “ to derive 
an income from advertisements which are obviously intended to 
spread the evils which they should shun.” 

Under the heading * Advertisement Lewdness, ’ in the Young 
India of October 31, 1929, he said that immoral advertising 
pictures were used by sellers of foreign clothes. He received a few 
specimens from a correspondent, and was told that more indecent 
pictures could also be made available. One such picture was 
marked ‘ Vilas Jivan.’ Gandhiji commented : “ The un- 

scrupulous ways adopted for enticing simple folk by foreign cloth 
ought to disgust decent men . . . . ” 

There are many types of advertisements which mislead simple 
folks. These are mostly in cases of medicines and drugs for ail- 
ments which would require the treatment of qualified doctors and 
not quacks. Doubtful drugs to cure venereal diseases, or to stop 
pregnancy, are freely advertised which are likely to prove harmful. 
Credulous public are also lured to make investments in non-existent 
concerns. Offers of jobs on some security to be made in advance 
are also made through certain advertisements, There are advertise- 

124 



Curse of Advertisement 

ments of drugs which are habit forming and most dangerous from 
health point of view. “ A single issue of a weekly or a monthly 
journal has often been found to contain about 10-15 advertisements 
relating to drugs for bringing about abortion under the title Regula- 
tion of menses, rejuvenation, and lascivious literature.” 8 

The Press Commission also reported, “ . . . lapses from good 
taste are most noticeable in case of advertisements of drugs intended 
for use in connection with women’s ailments, venereal diseases or 
sexual indulgence. Even a widely respected Hindi literary monthly 
carried a large number of such advertisements.” 9 Magical cures 
were also suggested for all sorts of known and unknown, curable 
and incurable diseases. 

There are advertisements which are fraudulent in nature. Some 
of these try to exploit the unemployment situation in the country 
and lure simple folk into snares for purposes of extortion of money. 
Services of astrologers making predictions for all kinds of things 
are also offered through the columns of advertisements. On the 
top of it there is the cheap way of drawing attention of the 
readers by exposing nude poses or near nude poses of females 
to which the text of the advertisement has no relevance whatsoever. 
Then there is large proportion of cinema advertisements, illustra- 
tions and texts of which are sometimes quite objectionable. 

Lack of good taste is also found while composing the advertising 
text. Matrimonial advertisements are sometimes crudely worded. 
While these may be done unwittingly, advertisements of medicines 
to be used for women’s ailments or so called advice to the married 
eouple are deliberately written in the most offensive manner. 

Advertisers did not even hesitate to play with the national flag 
and photos of national leaders to boost up their products, imme- 
diately after independence. The public and the press were equally 
thoughtless in taking things lightly which they adore most. The 
pictures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses on match-box, cigarette 
box, liquor bottles, prominent sign boards of shops and calendars 
were abundant. Writing in the Harijan of April 18, 1948, Shri 
K. G. Mashruwala lamented : 

* K. G. Mashruwala : “ False and Obscene Advertisements,” in Harijan, 
(Ahmedabad), November 7, 1948. 

* India Government : Report of the Press Commission (Manager of Publica- 
tions, Delhi, 1954), Part I, p. 97. 


125 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

“ . . . On the one hand we worship them (Gods and Avatars) as divine beings 
and on the other display them on the stage and screen and name our business 
concerns after them. You will not see Jesus or Mohammad represented on the 
stage or displayed on advertisements and sign-boards or business houses, such 
as Jesus Christ Mills or Rasul Mohammad Pharmacy. Christian or Muslim 
public opinion would not tolerate it. When you attach a kind of divinity to a 
person, it should be considered bad manners — if hot blasphemy — to reproduce 
his image or presume to play his part or name your concerns after his in a light 
manner.” 

ll is an irony that Gandhiji who was fighting against indecent 
advertisements, became himself an object of exploitation by the 
advertisers. Acharya J. B. Kripalani, Secretary, Gandhi National 
Memorial Fund, had to come out with a statement (reproduced 
in the same editorial referred to above) wherein he said : 

“ I have been pained to read in the papers advertisements inserted by private 
firms invoking the name of Gandhiji, ostensibly to pay homage to his memory 
but really to help in advertisement of their particular wares. Often the wares 
advertised are such as Gandhiji would have considered harmful and unpatriotic 
to use. . . . Gandhiji, as is well known, was against advertisements in general 
and never accepted any for the journals with which he was connected .... I 
hope the business community will respond to my appeal and will refrain from 
the use of Mahatma Gandhi’s name in their advertisements.” 

The Press Commission discussed the whole question of advertise- 
ments in detail, their nature, problems, and suggested certain 
remedies. Objectionable advertisements could be grouped under 
the following main heads : (*) Indecent Cinema Advertisements, 
(ii) Misleading advertisements including those on spurious drugs and 
(Hi) advertisements regarding obscene literature. 

Reference has been made regarding cinema advertisements. 
There are many whose illustrations or texts may be considered 
objectionable. As remedy to this, the Commission pointed out the 
system in vogue in the United States of America where film 
advertisements are approved by a central body for the industry. 
This committee ensures that the advertisement does not show or 
narrate anything which does not find a place in the film which 
has been censored. 

The British Medical Association has recommended a procedure 
for advertisement and sale of medicine passed by the Council. 
One of the recommendations was against any advertisement which 
should claim to cure any ailments. It also banned any offer to 
diagnose by correspondence disease or symptoms of ill health. 


126 



Curse of Advertisement 

Nor could it advertise treatment by correspondence. In addition 
the Association listed certain diseases for which medicines, treat- 
ments, etc. could not be advertised. 

Article 19 (2) of the Indian Constitution allows legislative 
measures curtailing freedom of speech and expression, for main- 
taining decency and morality. This clause can be used for checking 
indecent advertisements. The Drugs and Magic Remedies 
(Objectionable Advertisements) Act of 1954 was designed to 
eliminate many indecent advertisements but it could not check it 
altogether because of certain exemptions. One such exemption 
was the permission given to doctors to advertise on sign boards 
or notices the treatment of diseases. The Act banned advertise- 
ments of Talisman, Mantras and Kavachas for curing diseases. 
But it did not ban Talisman claiming to win friends or make 
fortunes. Sexual tonics were outside its purview. But there was no 
mention of advertising love-philtres. Unlike the British Medical 
Association, no ban had been placed for diagnosing or curing 
diseases through correspondence. 

Under the signed article * Spurious Medicines ’ published in 
the Hart jan, dated December 12, 1948, Shri K. G. Mashruwala who 
took over the editorship of the paper after the death of Gandhiji, 
published the copy of the resolution passed by the Newspapers 
Proprietors’ Association in Great Britain. This was sent by an 
Indian doctor. The resolution was as follows : 

“ 1. No advertisement will be accepted which is claimed to be effective 
in Bright's Disease, Cancer, Tuberculosis, Diabetes, Epilepsy, Fits, Locomotor 
ataxia. Disseminated sclerosis, Osteo-arthritis, Spinal, Cerebral and Venereal 
diseases, Luppus, Paralysis, or for the cure of Amenorrhoea, Hernia, Blindness, 
Rheumatoid arthritis and for procuring miscarriage, or for the treatment of 
habits associated with sexual indulgence or for any ailment connected with 
these habits, 

“ 2. No advertisement will be accepted from any advertiser, who by printed 
matter, orally or in his advertisement undertakes to diagnose any condition 
or to receive a statement of any person’s symptoms, with a view to advising or 
providing treatments by correspondence. 

“ 3. No advertisement will be accepted by containing a testimonial, other 
than limited to the actual views of the writer or any testimonial given by a 
doctor other than a recognised British Medical Practitioner. 

“ 4. No advertisement will be accepted, containing illustrations which arc 
distorted or exaggerated to convey false impressions. 

“ 5, No advertisement will be accepted which may lead persons to believe 
that the medicine emanated from any hospital or official source or is any other 


127 



Mahatma Gandhi— The Journalist 

than the proprietary medicine advertised by the manufacturer for the purpose 
specified, unless the advertising agent submitting the copy declares that the 
authority of such hospital or official source has been duly obtained." 

The doctor who sent this copy was the Chief Medical Officer of 
a T. B. Hospital. He narrated his seven years’ experience. Accord- 
ing to him many T. B. patients bought costly medicines as 
advertised in the press. They not only spent their money, but much 
of their health before they go to the public hospital. Thousands of 
poor arid ignorant people could be saved of millions of rupees which 
they waste by becoming victims of fraudulent advertisements. 

There is much undesirable literature in the country resulting in the 
demoralization of the people, particularly on the young ones who 
are the future hopes of the country. The advertisement of such 
literature is couched in a language from which it is difficult to know 
the exact content of the book. Earlier we have seen how the 
Young India drew the attention of the readers to some books on 
* Yoga.’ After years of agitation the Young Persons (Harmful 
Publications) Act of 1956 sought preventing circulation of publica- 
tions which are likely to have baneful effects on young persons. 
In this case young persons are those under the age of 20. The 
harmful publication, according to the Act, was : “ Any book, 

magazine, pamphlet, leaflet, newspaper or other like publication 
which consist of stories told with the aid of pictures or without 
the aid of pictures or wholly in pictures, being stories portraying 
wholly or mainly (i) the commission of offences, (ii) acts of violence 
and cruelty or (iii) incidents of a repulsive or horrible nature, in 
such a way that the publication as a whole would fend to corrupt 
a young person into whose hands it might fall, whether by inciting 
or encouraging him to commit offences or acts of violence or 
cruelty or in any other manner whatsoever.” 

Not only persons distributing such materials, but advertising 
in harmful publications could be punished with imprisonment up to 
six months or fine or both. On conviction Court might order 
destruction of copies of such harmful publications. Any offence 
objectionable under this Act was declared cognizable offence ox 
an offence for which a police officer could arrest without any 
warrant. 

The reforms in advertisement advocated by Gandhiji were later 
on pursued, though half-heartedly, by the Indian and Eastern 


128 



Curse of Advertisehient 

Newspapers Society which adopted a code for the press. Un- 
fortunately most of the papers interpreted this code by saying 
that it was recommendatory and not obligatory. There had been a 
few exceptions where some papers tried to honour this code but 
they also soon fell prey to the same. The Press Commission said : 
“ The Association of Advertising Agencies and the Indian Society 
of Advertisers have both informed us that they are in favour of 
a code of advertising that would keep out advertisement of an 
objectionable or doubtful character and are taking steps for its 
adoption.” 10 

In this matter they decided to follow the codes adopted by the 
International Chamber of Commerce and by the widely known 
paper — the New York Times. The Commission recommended 
that the Indian and Eastern Newspapers Society, and the Indian 
Language Papers Association, should adopt a strict code of 
advertisement conduct and appealed to all their members to follow 
that. This code would also be binding on the Association of 
Advertising Agencies and Indian Society of Advertisers through 
whom a major portion of advertisements were distributed. The 
Commission further recommended that these four bodies should 
join and form an advertisement council by laying down high 
standards of ethics. These might leave out small language papers 
and periodicals. For that the Commission recommended strong 
legal measures. Such a council is yet to be formed. Such strong 
legal measures are still to be taken by the Government, though 
West Bengal and Bihar enacted Undesirable Advertisement 
Control Act, 1948 and Bihar Drug Advertisement Control Act of 
1946, respectively. There were many lacunae and they did not 
cover the wide range of subjects as they should. Moreover advertisers 
of objectionable advertisements would often go unpunished because 
of the reluctance of people to bring the matter to the notice of the 
Court. The Commission suggested that to stop this nuisance the 
Government and the press had joint responsibility. It suggested 
that the Government could make an enactment whereby it could 
declare publishing of objectionable advertisement as “ an offence 
punishable with fine or imprisonment It also recommended 
that the Government should investigate advertisement of books 
offered t.o * adults only advertisement items of ‘ birth control 

10 Ibid. 'p. 98. 


G— 9 


129 



Mahatma Gandhi -- The Journalist 


clinics’ or * massage establishments furnishing ‘nurses’, etc. 
The Press Commission appealed : “ We would also urge upon 
the publishers and editors the wisdom of passing on for investiga- 
tion any advertisements which they receive and which in their 
judgement are of this nature.” 11 

Gandhiji did not believe that newspapers were to be published 
at any cost. It was not money but service which was the motto. 
He asked : “ Is it necessary to conduct newspapers at any cost ? 
Is the good that they do so great as to outweigh the evil that mis- 
chievous advertisements cost ?” 

As in other fields Gandhiji had a constructive approach to this 
problem as well. He did not believe much in the theory of imposing 
something from above. He had faith in self-control and self- 
restraint. He fervently hoped for a code of conduct amongst 
journalists which could alone stop such mischievous advertise- 
ments. He queried : “ We have a Journalists’ Association. Ts it 
not possible, through it, to cultivate the uniform code of morals 
among them and create public opinion that would make it 
impossible for a respectable journal not to follow the prescribed 
code?” 

Under the heading : ‘How to stop obscene advertisements’, 
Gandhiji wrote in the Harijan of November 14, 1936 : 

“ A sister, sending me a cutting from a well known magazine containing the 
advertisement of a most objectionable book, writes : 

" ‘ The enclosed came under my eye when glancing over the pages of ... . 
I do not know if you get this magazine. I do not suppose you ever have time to 
glance at it even if it is sent to you. Once before I spoke to you about the 
obscene advertisements. I do wish you would write about them sometime. 
That books of the type advertised are flooding the market today is only too true, 
but should responsible journals like. . . encourage their sale ? My woman's 
modesty is so utterly repelled by these things that I cannot write to anyone but 
you. To think that what God has given to woman with intent for an express 
purpose, should be advertised for abuse is too degrading for words. ... I 
wish you would write about the responsibility of leading Indian newspapers 
and journals in this respect. This is not the first by any means that I could 
have sent to you for criticism." 

“ From the advertisement I do not propose to reproduce any portion except 
to tell the reader that it describes as obscenely as it can be suggestive contents 
of books advertised. Its title is * Sexual Beauty of the Female Forms ’ and the 
advertising firm tells the reader that it will give away free to the buyer two 


« Ibid., p. 101. 
130 



Curse of Advertisement 

more books called * New Knowledge for the Bride ' and 6 The Sexual Embrace 
or How to Please your Partner \ 

“ I fear that in relying on me in any way to affect the course of the advertisers 
of such books or to move the editors or publishers from their purpose of making 
their productions yield profits, she relies on a broken reed. No amount of 
appealing by me to the publishers of the objectionable books or advertisements 
of them will be of any use.„ But what I would like to tell the writer of the letter 
and other learned sisters like her, is to come out in the open and to do the work 
that is peculiarly and specially theirs/* 

He obviously wanted to create a strong public opinion, with 
women as the vanguard, against such advertisements. Earlier, he 
appealed to fellow journalists to adopt a code of conduct and put 
a stop to these horrible advertisements. There was some response. 
In the same journal, on January 2, 1937, he wrote : “ A corres- 
pondent who saw my article on obscene advertisements writes : 

‘'You can do much in preventing obscene advertisements by exposing the 
names of the papers and magazines which advertise such shameless things as 
you have mentioned. 

“ I can’t undertake the censorship my correspondent advises, but I can sug- 
gest a better way. 

“ If public conscience is alive, subscribers can write to their respective papers 
if they contain objectionable advertisements, drawing their attention to them 
and stopping their subscriptions if the offence is not cured. 

64 The reader will be glad to know that the sister who complained to me about 
the obscene advertisements wrote also to the editor of the offending magazine 
who expressed his regret for the inadvertent admission of the obnoxious adver- 
tisement and promised to remove it forthwith. 

“ I am glad also to say that my caution has found support from some other 
papers. Thus the editor of the Nispruha of Nagpur, writes : 

“ ‘ I have not only read with great care your article in the Harijan regarding 
obscene advertisements but have given a detailed translation of it in the Nis- 
pruha. I have also added a short editorial comment thereon/ 

ei I am enclosing a typical advertisement which though not obscene, is yet 
immoral in a sense. The advertisement is obviously bogus and it is generally 
the villager who falls a prey to it. I have always refused such advertisements 
and I am also writing to this party similarly. If an editor must supervise the 
reading matter that be will allow, it is as much his duty to supervise the advertise- 
ments, and no editor can permit his paper to be used by people desirous of 
duping the simple villagers.” 

Though Gaxidhiji believed in self-imposed restrictions by the 
editors in not giving publicity to such things, he would not, as we 
saw earlier, hesitate to recommend to the Government sterner 
actions. As a practical man, he knew that while big papers would 
take steps to ban indecent advertisements, smaller language papers 


131 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

and journals would ignore such decisions. There the imposition 
of law was necessary. The Press Commission, as we have seen, 
also recommended the same thing. 

In a country like India where democracy has not yet stood on 
solid grounds, some sort of legal action may be necessary in the 
initial stages. When average people see that the State is not inte- 
rested in controlling bad things, nor does it extol virtues, they are 
likely to infer that the law has only negative sides. In the last ana- 
lysis we come to the people who should be educated and be able 
to distinguish between right and wrong and should put voluntary 
restraint on things. Gandhiji believed in raising the standard of 
the community and creation of a strong public opinion which 
would force people to do things in the correct way. 

In his book Essays On Education Mr. Whitney Griswold wrote : 
“ Books won’t stay banned. They won’t burn. Ideas won't go to 
jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have 
always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better 
ideas.” 

In the editorial — ‘ False and Obscene Advertisements ’■ — pub- 
lished in the Harijan, November 7, 1948, Shri K. G. Mashruwala 
wrote : 

“Public libraries and reading rooms can also play a great part in controlling 
papers and advertisers. They can keep a black-box, in which readers should put 
in complaints about a journal not keeping to a proper standard either in its 
writing, pictures or advertisements. The managers of libraries should verify 
such complaints, and if satisfied draw the attention of the journal asking them 
to correct themselves, and if not heeded refuse to patronize it. This would, by 
the way, be a superior and more effective censorship than that exercised through 
Government Executive.” 

Was Gandhiji afraid of taking advertisement lest it influenced 
the policy of the paper ? It is difficult to believe that he would 
personally have cared for any such outside influence. But none the 
less it raises an interesting issue. Cannot advertiser exert influence 
on the paper through which he advertises his products ? The 
Harijdn of October 18, 1948, published an editorial by Shri K. G. 
Mashruwala, wherein it stated : 

“ We have been talking of freedom of the Press ; it has been called the 
Fourth Estate and so on. But what about the sacred responsibility of the jour- 
nalists ? They seek to corrupt the Government through the criticism, but 
they themselves are under the effective control of their advertisers or the 
industrialists who pay them. They accept any rubbish of an advertisement or 

132 



Curse of Advertisement 


afford any industrialist interest if they are paid their price. They write a leader 
to denounce drink and at another place give a full-page advertisement of some 
wine." 

The Press Commission went through this question and came to 
the conclusion that a single advertiser could not bring about pres- 
sure on the policy of a paper. Their finding is as follows : 

‘‘ It is difficult to envisage that a single advertiser can act as a source of 
pressure on the general policy of a paper. We have naturally been anxious 
to ascertain whether it would be possible, even of any group of advertisers, to 
hold a paper to ransom or to force it to change its general policy. We find 
that out of a total estimated revenue of Rs. 5 crores to the daily newspapers 
about 60% reaches them through the Advertising Agencies and the balance is 
placed directly by small individual advertisers in the form of local and classi- 
fied advertisements, each of which, by itself, would be of very small value. 
Taking the big advertisers who generally operate through agencies, we do not 
consider it likely that pressure would be exercised through the agencies, since 
the interests of one group might differ from the interests of another group 
handled by the same agency." 

There is another type of advertisement which, though not much 
in vogue in India in the time of Gandhiji, has now become quite a 
problem. This is political advertisement- — buying of newspaper 
space to sponsor a political cause or advertise a particular condition 
in a country. Sometimes Governments spend huge amount to 
publicize their point of view on certain issues. The Daily Express, 
London, disclosed on December 20, 1962 that the Soviet Govern- 
ment paid it £20,000 to print the full text of Mr. Khruschev’s 
address to the Supreme Soviet on December 12, the same year. 12 It 
is often difficult to decide as to what is desirable and what is un- 
desirable in paid advertisements for * wonder cures’, etc. in standard 
newspapers. But how to check controversial political advertise- 
ments ? If a businessman is allowed to advertise the good points 
of his merchandise why should not a politician do the same for 
his party or for his country ? This has been the argument of many 
people now-a-days. 

Recently, the Government of India wanted to regulate foreign 
governments attempting to advertise their views through the 
columns of newspapers in India. The Government was seeking 
the advice of Indian and Eastern Newspapers Society on this matter. 
The Statesman of January 6, 1962, in an editorial note said: 

“ Historically there is a case for anxiety. Before World War I, perhaps a 

12 The Statesman (New Delhi, December 21, 1962). 


133 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

major part of the Parisian Press was not unjustly popularly supposed to be 
subsidized by foreign embassies, partially though not exclusively that of 
Russia* Between the wars, similar charges were alleged without effective con- 
tradiction against the regimes of Mussolini and Hitler .... Present argument, 
however, concerns paid advertising: at least a less devious approach than some. 
In the USA this is not merely prevalent but difficult to assail without violating 
constitutional guarantees. If the erstwhile Trujillo regime in the Dominican 
Republic spent money on full-page announcements in the New York papers, 
Americans, whatever they thought of the content, found it difficult in principle 
to object. A reader was expected to form his own opinion, as in Britain of 
equal recently extensive publicity for the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasa- 
land. There is also — still not eliminated here through shortage of newsprint— 
the allied question of foreign sponsored supplements. What is most necessary 
to ensure is that advertisement should be clearly recognizable as such and 
not masquerade as news or the newspaper's own comment." 

But Gandhiji would raise the basic question — * the duty of a 
journalist to the community. If the system was good and worth 
emulating, why should space be purchased to publicize it ? Why 
should a conscientious newspaper black out a useful news item ? 
Is not money, in such cases, trying to influence the policy of some 
papers ? 


134 



7 


Liberty of the Press 


It was a coincidence that the year the Indian Opinion started pub- 
lishing, an Amendment in Indian Official Secrets Act of 1889 was 
brought about by the Government of India. But Gandhiji was not 
remotely concerned with that. Though his contemporaries in India 
were facing various repressive measures under Press Acts, he was 
not, during his entire stay in South Africa, handicapped in 
running the paper ; nor did he publish anything to incur the local 
Government’s displeasure. 

Tolstoy’s letter to Gandhiji — Letter to a Hindoo — was published 
in the Indian Opinion. It was reproduced in the journal Gujarat 
Patra of Nadiad, a town in Gujarat. A notice under the Indian 
Penal Code was served on the journal by the Government of India. 
In the Gujarati edition of the Indian Opinion of April 9, 1910, 
Gandhiji mentioned about this and said : “ It is not a little sur- 
prising, though it does not contain a single sentence which can 
promote violence, the person who reproduced it is being prose- 
cuted. This betrays sheer madness on the part of the officers. . . . 
Our only regret is that though ours is the primary responsibility 
for publishing this letter, nothing is done to us and it is the editor 
of Gujarat who is in danger. We hope that the editor and the 
manager of Gujarat will do their duty fearlessly and not retrace a 
single step.” 

Gandhiji also mentioned about the ‘ Repressive Laws ’ in Iitdia 
for ‘ Suppression of writings ’ and cautioned : “ Indiscriminate 
suppression of newspapers by the Government will not ensure 
peace. . . . True, the letter gave a vivid account of the harm 
done by the British Rule. That thought cannot be erased by sup- 
pressing writings.” 


135 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

Gandhiji was not quite sure what to do under the circumstances. 
He said ; 66 Will our readers be intimidated by these developments 
or will they do their duty ? That is what remains to be seen.” 

In the Gujarati edition of the Indian Opinion of April 23, 1919, 
Gandhiji wrote an article under the caption ‘Journalist’s Duty’. 
He referred to the case against Gujarat Tatra and asked: “ What 
should an editor do when something he has published displeases 
the Government or is held to violate some law but is none the 
less true ? Should he apologise ? We should say, certainly not. 
True, he is not bound to publish such matter, but once it has been 
published, the editor ought to accept responsibility for it.” 

But he qualifies his statement and says : 

“ This raises a very important issue. If the principle we have laid down 
is correct, it follows that if any provocative writing has been published 
unintentionally and no apology is offered for the same, the newspaper will in 
consequence be prevented from rendering other services as well and the 
community will go without that benefit. We would not therefore, apply this 
principle to matter published unintentionally, but it should apply to what is 
published after full deliberation. If a newspaper runs into difficulties for 
publishing any such matter, we think the closing down of the newspaper will 
be a better service to the public. The argument that in that case one may 
have to face the confiscation of all one’s property and be reduced to poverty 
has no force. Such a contingency may certainly arise, and it was precisely 
for this reason that we said that the editor of a journal devoted to public 
service must be ever ready for death. 

c< Let us take one or two obvious illustrations. Suppose that in a certain 
region there obtains the cruel practice of Kanya- Vi krav a. A reformer starts 
a newspaper there and writes strongly against this practice. Those who 
follow the practice are angry with him and decide to outcaste him if he does 
not apologise. We are sure the reformer ought to go on writing against 
offering girls in marriage for a price, even if he has to face total ruin or be 
outcaste for that, and, when he is left without a single pie, he should close 
down the newspaper, he must not apologise, whatever happens. It is only 
by such conduct that he can prepare the ground for rooting out the practice. 

* e Let us take another illustration. Suppose that Government has com- 
mitted a gross injustice and robbed the poor. A progressive newspaper is 
being published in such a place. It writes against the oppressive measure and 
advises the people to disregard the unjust law of the Government. The 
Government takes offence and threatens confiscation of property if no 
apology is forthcoming. Should the reformer apologise? We think the 
reply is again the same, that he should stand the confiscation of his property 
and close down the newspaper but certainly not offer an apology. The 
people would then see that, if the reformer could lose his all for their sake, 
they should also in their own interest oppose the law. If the reformer should 

13$ 



Liberty of the Press 

apologise the effect on the people would exactly be the reverse of this. They 
would know that the man would not be concerned over much even if their 
houses were on fire, that, from a safe distance, he would only indulge in 
meaningless declamations. When he himself ran into trouble (they would 
say), he meekly retired. And so they will think of doing likewise and resign 
themselves to the inevitable. They will thus argue themselves into greater 
weakness. It is, therefore, tlear in this instance that the best service that the 
reformer can render will be to stop the newspaper." 

Early twentieth century was a period of expansion in the news- 
paper world in India. It also saw the emergence of nationalist 
press. Slowly but surely, newspapers were being sharply divided 
into those which supported the alien Government and those which 
advocated its withdrawal. The Indian Official Secrets Act was 
first promulgated in 1880 with a view to restricting information 
of military importance being published in newspapers. The amend- 
ment also placed civil matters, of public interest, at par with 
military matters. This was applicable to anybody, who “ without 
lawful authority or permission (the proof whereof shall be upon 
him) goes to a Government Office, and commits an offence under 
the Act”. 1 Thus the Government was empowered to prosecute 
any newspaper it chose. Among others, Shri Gopal Krishna 
Gokhale, whom Gandhiji had earlier accepted as his leader, criti- 
cized the amendment by saying : “ It is dreadful to think of the 
abuse of authority which is almost certain to result from this 
placing of Indian editors, especially the smaller ones among them, 
completely at the mercy of those whom they constantly irritate or 
displease by their criticism ”. And again :“.... From the 
standpoint of rulers, no less than that of the ruled, it will be most 
unfortunate if Indian papers were thus debarred from writing 
about matters which agitate the Indian community most.” 2 

Shri Gokhale in his campaign against the Act pointed out the 
irony of the fact that while India was governed, of all the colonies, 
in the most strong handed manner and where, compared to other 
countries, press is weak, the Government tried to further restrict a 
weak press in their functioning. To him the press, like the Govern- 
ment, was a custodian of public interest. Any attempt to put 

1 Margarita Bams : The Indian Press (George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1940), 
p. 318. 

a Gopal Krishna Gokhale : Collection of Speeches, (G. A. Natesan & Co., 
Madras, 1916), pp. 214-216, 


137 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

obstacles in its free work will detrimentally affect the interest of the 
people. He was also drawing a parallel with the liberty of the press 
enjoyed in England. There, he stated, even if the disclosures were 
of the most embarrassing nature to the Government such attempts 
would be looked upon as “journalistic enterprise”. 3 

Shri Gokhale’s comparison with the British Press, though cogent, 
was not quite valid considering the coiidition in India. In England 
the cry for the liberty of press was given by the pioneers of demo- 
cracy, and the middle class which, after the Industrial Revolution, 
was coming to power. They regarded monopoly, patronage or 
Government interference as obstacles to democracy. Free press 
was part of their political programme which also included un- 
hindered elections, enlarged franchize and free trade. Free p'ress 
was necessary to them to criticize the controlling feudal group in 
the Government responsible for mal-administration which ham- 
pered their policy. These champions could not then foresee that 
newspaper running would grow into a profitable business arid would 
be converted into a vehicle for personal or class propaganda, with 
an altogether different connotation of liberty. 

The Act of 1910 “ to provide for the better control of the press ” 
was later passed in India. In outlining the objective it was said 
that “ the continued recurrence of murders and outrages has shown 
that the measures which have hitherto been taken to deal with 
anarchy and sedition require strengthening and that the root source 
of the evil has not been touched. Prosecutions have invariably 
proved successful, but have produced no permanent improvement 
in the tone of the press.” The most objectionable clause in the 
Act was that the executive could take recourse to punitive action 
at its own will. 

Again the champion of the press was Shri Gokhale who declared 
that the Indian press had been “ a potent instrument of progress : 
it had quickened national conscience ; it had spread in the country 
ideas of justice and equality not only between man and man but 
also between class and class ; it has stimulated public spirit, it 
had set higher standards of public duty.” 

But the Government was not quite sure of that. Its repressive 
policy against the Press remained unabated. To uphold “the 
liberty of the Press and protest against the Press Act of 1910” a 

8 Ibid., pp. 222-223. 

138 



Liberty of the Fress 

largely attended meeting of the citizens of Bombay, under the 
Chairmanship of Mr. B. G. Horniman, Editor, Bombay Chronicle , 
was convened on June 24, 1916. Gandhiji was invited to spealc. 
He spoke in Gujarati against the Press Act and read the text of 
the resolution which ran as follows : 

“That this meeting of loyal and law-abiding Indian subjects of His 
Majesty the King-Emperor, believing the existence of a free public Press to 
be one of the first essentials of a healthy and progressive State and necessary 
to the proper development, political and moral, of civilised peoples; and 
further that the extension and maintenance of freedom in all departments of 
public life is the surest guarantee of popular progress and contentment and 
of mutual trust between the Government and the people, asks that the Press 
in the country should enjoy the utmost liberty of expression, subject to the 
legal restraints of the ordinary law and of penalties inflicted only after proper 
trial and conviction.” 

He spoke of the “attack made by the Government against 
Mrs. Annie Besant,” Editor, New India, and said : “ It is simply 
a waste of time to hold these meetings and carry these resolutions. 
But what else can we do? There is no alternative for us — the 
subject people — to do aught but place on record our view on a 
given subject. And, therefore, I have come here in response to 
an invitation. I feel that something should be done in this 
matter — something done so that our complaint may reach the 
ears of the Government.” He agreed that some restraint is 
necessarily to be exercised on newspapers. But he was against 
“ unwarranted restraint ”. 

He had, till then, faith in British justice and appealed to the 
Government “ to do everything that is just and righteous ; if that 
is done, there would be no necessity for these meetings ”. As one 
who had edited a newspaper in South Africa, he made a special 
request to the Government “ on behalf of the newspaper 
writers “ Do not harass the respectable editors and proprietors 
.... Treat us as generously as you would the English people.” To 
the Indian newspapers his advice was “Say openly whatever 
you have to say. That is our duty,” and concluded by saying 
that at best the Government could take the bodies of the Editor. 
But souls will remain free. 

In a Diwali message in November, 1917, to the Gujarati Daily 
of Bombay, Hindustan, he said : 

“ What is the duty of newspapers when laws like the Seditious Writings 
Act and the Defence of India Act are in force ? We often find our papers 

139 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

guilty of equivocation. Some have preferred this method into a science. 
But, in my opinion, this harms the country. People become weak and 
equivocation becomes a habit with them. This changes the form of 
language: instead of being a medium for the expression of one’s thoughts, it 
becomes a mask for concealing them. I am convinced that this is not the 
way to develop strength in the people. The people, both collectively and 
individually, must cultivate the habit of speaking' only what is in their minds. 
Newspapers are a good means of such education, for those who would evade 
these laws had better not bring out a paper at all ; the other course is to 
ignore the laws in question and state one’s real views fearlessly but respect- 
fully and bear the consequences. Mr Justice Stephen has said somewhere 
that a man who has no reason in his heart can speak no reason. If it is 
there in the heart, one should speak it out. If one does not have the courage 
for this, one should stop publishing a newspaper. This is in the best 
interests of all.'* 

During the war, 1914-1918, Indian press suffered heavily at 
Government hands. In its memorandum, the Press Association 
of India, which was formed in 1915 to protect the interests of the 
Press, pointed out that “ up to 1917 twenty-two newspapers had 
been called on to furnish security and 18 of them had shut down 
rather than function under official tutelage. Between 1917 and 
1919, some 963 newspapers and printing presses which had existed 
before the Press Act of 1910, had been proceeded agairist under 
the Act — in all 286 cases of warning which stifled the victims, and 
705 cases of demand of heavy security and forfeitures by executive 
orders. There were 173 new printing presses too and 129 new 
newspapers that were killed at birth by security demands, and 
many more were deterred from coming into being by the very 
presence of the Act. The Association observed that the Govern- 
ment collected nearly Rs. 500,000 during the first five years of the 
Act by securities and forfeitures, and that later there were more 
accelerated receipts ; it was also stated that over 500 publications 
were proscribed under the Act.” 4 

After the war discontent was rampant in India. Farmers were 
not getting price for their agricultural produce. Industries, ex- 
padded during the war, had to shrink resulting in unemployment. 
There were strikes by the labourers. Muslims were unhappy about 
the treatment given to the Caliph of Turkey. Those, and Gandhiji 
who came to India in 1915 was one of them, who relied on British 

4 S. Natarajan : A History of the Press in India (Asia Publishing House, 
Bombay, 1962), p. 172. 

140 



Liberty of the Press 

justice and helped the war efforts, were disillusioned. The extremists 
in the Congress wanted some sort of action against the Government. 

While conducting the Indian Opinion , Gandhiji had not any 
occasion to discuss, participate or uphold freedom of expression 
or liberty of the press in South Africa. There was no restriction on 
his paper. But in India fhe situation was different. Here the free- 
dom of expression and the liberty of the press were being suppressed 
by Government action. Gandhiji had not yet associated himself 
directly with the Navaji van and the Young India. As editor, he 
had not yet faced, as others did, the direct assault of censorship 
and other associated evils. Nationalist leaders who had their own 
papers to express views were, on the other hand, debarred from 
freely commenting on political matters. They felt aggrieved but 
were helpless before the might of the British Government. Shri 
Gokhale, the champion of the liberty of press, died in 1915. Who 
was to stand up against various Government gagging orders ? 

Thus from political exigency Gandhiji emerged as the champion 
for the freedom of expression and for the liberty of the press. The 
moment the Rowlatt Committee’s recommendations came to be 
known, Gandhiji drafted a pledge which was signed by many 
important people. It said : 

“ Being conscientiously of opinion that the Bills known as the Indian Crimi- 
nal Law (Amendment) Bill No. I of 1919, and Criminal Law (Emergency 
Power) Bill No. II of 1919 are unjust, subversive of the principles of liberty and 
justice and destruction of elementary rights of individuals on which the safety 
of the community as a whole and the State itself is based, we solemnly affirm 
that in the event of these Bills becoming law and until they are withdrawn, we 
shall refuse civilly to obey these laws and such other laws as a committee, to 
be hereafter appointed, may think fit, and we further affirm that in this struggle, 
we will faithfully follow truth and refrain from violence to life, person or pro- 
perty.” 

The ‘ Satyagraha ’ pledge was signed and it was agreed that 
private literature should be sold openly and that the registration 
of newspapers could be civilly disobeyed. In the list of the pro- 
hibited literature were Gandhiji’s * Hind Swaraj ’ and 
‘ Sarvodaya ’. These were sold openly and in defiance of the law. 

“ Gandhiji and Mrs. Naidu went out in cars to sell the books. All the copies 
were soon sold out. People willingly paid more than the published price of the 
book which was four annas. As high as Rs. 50 were paid to Gandhi for one 
copy. The intending purchasers were told that they were liable to be arrested 
and imprisoned for possessing the proscribed literature. But they had shed 


141 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

all fear of jail-going. The proceeds of the sale were utilised for furthering the 
civil disobedience campaign." 6 

Mention has been made about the unregistered weekly — the 
Satyagraha — edited by Gandhiji. This was again in defiance 
of the law which required registration of newspapers. In the first 
issue, dated April 7, 1919, he wrote, editorially : “ .... A 

‘ Satyagrahi ’ for whom punishments provided by law have lost 
all terror can give only in an unregistered newspaper his thoughts 
and opinion unhampered by any other consideration than that of 
his own conscience. His newspaper, therefore, if otherwise well 
edited, can become a most powerful vehicle for transmitting pure 
ideas in a concise manner.” 6 The Government might confiscate 
all such newspapers. Gandhiji advised workers to copy out extracts 
fox readers. 

The Navajivan and the Young India first made their appearance, 
under Gandhiji’s control, on October 7 and October 8, 1919, 
respectively. In the first issue of the Young India Gandhiji wrote 
a front page article under the heading ‘ No Security wherein 
he informed readers that though the Young India could escape 
security the Navajivan had to pay Rs. 500. But he was not happy 
to publish the papersin the abnormal situation — at a time when the 
objectionable “ features of the Press Act continue to disfigure it 

He wanted fearless editors. He wanted to keep up their morale 
at a time when Government was waging, so to say, a war against 
them. Simultaneously with the suggestion for a defiant attitude, 
he was giving the press constructive ideas. He advised : 

“ We must devise methods of circulating our ideas unless and until the whole 
Press becomes fearless, defies consequences and publishes ideas, even when it 
is In disagreement with them, just for the purpose of securing that freedom. 
An editor with an original idea or an effective prescription for India’s ills can 
easily write them out, a hundred hands can copy them, many more can read 
them out to thousands of listeners. I do hope, therefore, that Non-cooperation 
editors, at any rate, will not refrain from expressing their thoughts for fear of 
the Press Act. They should regard it as sinful to keep their thoughts secret — 
a waste of energy to conduct a newspaper that cramps their thoughts. It is 
negation of one’s calling for an editor to have to suppress his best thoughts." 7 

8 D. G. Tendulkar : Mahatma (V. K. Jhaveri and D. G. Tendulkar, 
Bombay, 1951), Vol. I, p. 302. 

* The Satyagraha (Bombay, April 7, 1919). 

7 S. Natarajan : A History of the Press in India (Asia Publishing House, 
Bombay, 1962), p. 195. 

142 



Liberty of the Press 

Speaking about the ‘ Khilafat ’ agitation later on, he narrated 
the story of one of his friends asking him whether his speeches 
could not come under the sedition section of the Indian Penal 
Code. Gandhiji said that it would be difficult for him to plead not 
guilty if he was charged tinder it. He further elaborated by saying 
that his speeches were of such a nature so that people “might 
consider it a shame to assist or cooperate with the Government 
that had forfeited all title to confidence, respect or support His 
stand was that when the Government forfeited its claim to rule, 
it was but right for the people to express their feelings openly. 
This would bring the rulers to senses so that they could behave 
according to civilized rules. 

In the Young India of January 12, 1922 he wrote on the liberty 
of the press : 

“ Liberty of speech means that it is unassailed even when the speech hutts ; 
liberty of the press can be said to be truly respected only when the press can 
comment in the severest terms upon and even misrepresent matters ; broken 
against misrepresentation or violence being secured not by an administrative 
gagging order, not by closing down the press but by punishing the real offender, 
leaving the press itself unrestricted. Freedom of association is truly respected 
when assemblies of people can discuss even revolutionary projects, the stale 
relying upon the force of public opinion and the civil policy, not the savage 
military at its disposal, to crush any actual outbreak of revolution that is 
designed to confound public opinion and the state representing it." 

In his letter to the Viceroy, written from Bardoli on February 1, 
1922, Gandhiji wrote : 

“ . . . nor again can the administrative interference with the liberty of the 
Press under a Law that is under promise of repeal be regarded as anything but 
repression. The immediate task before the country, therefore, is to rescue from 
paralysis freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom of Press. . , . 
1 would further urge you to free the Press from all administrative control and 
restore all the fines and forfeitures recently imposed. In thus urging, I am 
asking Your Excellency to do what is today being done in every country which 
is deemed to be under civilised government.’’ 8 

Gandhiji was charged for writing seditious article and gaoled. 

Soon after he was released ; but there was no peace in the 
country. In 1929 Labour Party formed Government in England. 
Gandhiji, the same year, started the Civil Disobedience movement 
by launching his famous march to Dandi, from Ahmedabad, to 
break the Salt Laws. 

8 B. Pattabhi Sitaramayya : The History of the Indian National Congress 
(Padma Publications, Bombay, 1946), Vol. I, pp. 233-234. 


143 



Mahatma Gandhi — The journalist 

There was excitement throughout the country and the Govern- 
ment enacted the Indian Press Ordinance of 1930, aimed at con- 
trolling the press. Magistrates were given power to ask for securi- 
ties from printing presses. The magistrate could also demand 
securities from publishers of papers. Such securities could any 
moment be forfeited. 

In 1931, the Indian Press (Emergency Powers) Act was passed. 
The magistrates were empowered to ask for security along with the 
declaration under the Press and Registration of Books Act of 1867. 
The same could be done in case of publishers. It also empowered 
the magistrates to issue search warrant for property where copies 
of newspapers and books were suspected to be stored. 

Under the relentless sweep of the Press Ordinance a toll of 
Rs. 2,40,000 from 131 newspapers during the first six months of 
the Civil Disobedience movement was exacted. The maximum 
demanded from a single newspaper was Rs. 30,000. About 450 
newspapers failed to deposit the security. In 1936, action was 
taken against 72 newspapers and a total security of over a lakh 
was demanded. Only 15 did furnish it. 9 

Congress came to power, for the first time, in 1937, after elections 
were held under the Act of 1935. People started interpreting civil 
liberty very liberally. To many people it was a licence to do any- 
thing as one pleased. Gandhiji once asked them to defy law. 
Now, under changed circumstances, he wanted them to realize the 
meaning of civil liberty. He focused on the subject of respon- 
sibility which civil liberty presupposes. He wrote in the Harijan 
of October 23, 1937 : 

64 Civil liberty is not criminal liberty. When law and order are under popular 
control, the ministers in charge of the department cannot hold the portfolio for 
a day, if they act against the popular will. ... In seven provinces, the Congress 
rules. It seems to be assumed by some persons that in these provinces at least, 
individuals can say and do what they like. But so far as I know the Congress 
mind, it will not tolerate any such licence. Civil liberty means the fullest liberty 
to say and to do what one likes within the ordinary law of the land. The word 
* ordinary ' has been purposely used here. The Penal Code and the Criminal 
Procedure Code, not to speak of the Special Powers Legislation, contain provi- 
sions which the foreign rulers have enacted for their own safety. These provi- 
sions can be easily identified, and must be ruled out of operation. The real 
test, however, is the interpretation by the Working Committee of the power 
of the ministers of law and order. Subject, therefore, to the general instruc- 

• Ibid., Vol. II, p. 3. 


144 



Liberty of the Press 

tions laid down by the Working Committee for the guidance of Congress 
ministers, the statutory powers limited in the manner indicated by me, must be 
exercised by the ministers against those who, in the name of civil liberty, preach 
lawlessness in the popular sense of the term.” 

His attitude on the question of liberty of expression and press 
was again stiffened when India, without her consent, was dragged 
to join the Second World War. The All-India Congress Committee, 
under his guidance, accepted a few resolutions on the subject. In 
a statement issued on August 13, 1940, Gandhiji said : “The 
All-India Congress Committee cannot submit to a policy which 
is a denial of India’s national right to freedom, which suppresses 
the free expression of the public opinion and which would lead to 
the degradation of her people and to her continued enslavement.’’ 
Gandhiji himself explained the resolution and concluded by saying : 

“ Freedom of speech and pen is the foundation of Sawaraj. If the 
foundation stone is in danger, you have to exert the whole of your 
might in order to defend that single stone.” 10 

Before the ‘Quit India’ movement, in 1942, Gandhiji was 
preparing his fellow journalists for the coming struggle. He asked 
them to preserve the sacred liberty of the press at any cost. Said 
he : “ The Press should discharge its obligations and duties freely 
and fearlessly and not allow itself to be cowed down or bribed by 
Government. Let the Press be ready to be closed down rather 
than allow itself to be misused by the authorities ; and then be 
prepared to sacrifice their buildings, machinery and big establish- 
ment.” 

The Press in India did not compromise where self-respect was 
involved. And it had to pay dearly to preserve its liberty. Accord- 
ing to All-India Editors’ Conference, in August 1942 alone, 96 
journals were either suspended or suppressed. So that Gandhiji 
could say : 

“ I am proud of the way the Indian Press as a whole has reacted to the Congress 
resolutions. The acid test has yet to come. I hope the Press will then fearlessly 
represent the national cause. It is better not to issue newspapers than to issue 
them under a feeling of suppression. At the same time, I do not want them to 
be blind followers of Congress and to endorse what their reason or conscience 
rebels against. The national cause will never suffer by honest criticism of 
national institutions and national policies/' 

10 D. G. Tendulkar : Mahatma (V. K. Jhaveri and D. G. Tendulkar, 
Bombay, 1952), Vol. V, p. 406. 


G — 10 


145 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

While explaining the ‘ Quit India ’ resolution on August 8, 
1942, he made a special appeal to the journalists : 

“ A word to the journalists. I congratulate you on the support you have 
hitherto given to the national demand. I know the restrictions and handicaps 
under which you have to labour. But I would now ask you to snap the chains 
that bind you. It should be the proud privilege of the newspapers to lead and 
set an example in laying one’s own life for freedom. You have the pen which 
the Government cannot suppress." 

The man who relied so heavily on the Press, demanded so much 
from them and, in response, got so much, was, as we had seen, 
advocating banning of newspapers at the fag-end of his life. 

Before the transfer of power, there were communal tensions 
leading to, in some cases, mass killings. As in the ’twenties and 
’thirties, he appealed to the press to publish such news very very 
carefully. He asked them to verify before printing any such item. 
He even demanded from Prime Minister Nehru, after transfer 
of power, publication of correct information and criticized for his 
‘ hush hush ’ policy. But papers, by and large, let him down. 
His was the lone sane voice amidst mass frenzy and hysteria. 

There were also political kite-flying by the press creating only 
misunderstanding. Should they give correct news or their assump- 
tion to the readers, he asked ? 

Free India’s first Government under the leadership of Shri 
Jawaharlal Nehru, tried to strike a compromise between the concept 
of the liberty of press and its responsibility in a democratic set-up. 

India adopted the Constitution in 1950 which, among other 
things, gave people, under Article 19 the freedom of speech. It 
said : “ All citizens shall have the right — (a) to freedom of 

speech and expression.” It was interpreted to have included the 
freedom of the press as well. 

The Press Commission elaborated the point and said : 

“ This freedom is stated in wide terms and includes not only freedom of 
speech which manifests itself by oral utterance, but freedom of expression, 
whether such expression is communicated by written word or printed matter. 
Thus, freedom of the Press, particularly of newspapers and periodicals, is a 
species of which the freedom of expression is a genus. There can, therefore, 
be no doubt that freedom of the Press is included in the fundamental right 
of the freedom of expression guaranteed to the citizens under Article 19 (1) (a) 
of the Constitution." 11 

11 India Government : Report of the Press Commission (Manager of Publi- 
cations, Delhi, 1954), Part I, p. 357. 


146 



Liberty of the Press 

The Constitution adopted was democratic in character. It gave 
all adults the right to vote. That entailed responsibility not only 
to the Government, but to the press as well. Press, as is acknow- 
ledged, ought to play a very responsible part in the democratic 
country. It should educate the public — and this was Gandhiji’s 
dream all along — about? the happenings in the country and abroad 
— and their possible impact on the political, social and economic 
life in the country. 

The Press Commission further said : 

“In their memorandum to us, the All-India Newspaper Editors' Confe- 
rence have said that journalism should strive to inform the people of current 
events and trends of opinion, to create and sustain an ever widening range of 
interest and to encourage discussion of current problems with due regard 
to all points of view, all of which involves accurate and impartial presentation 
of news and views and dispassionate evaluation of conflicting ideals. The Indian 
Federation of Working Journalists have emphasized the need for constant and 
conscious striving to distinguish between fact and comment, to present objec- 
tively and fully * all the news that is fit to print/ to give impartially news of 
interest to all sections of the community, to maintain high standards of public 
taste and national culture, to support and promote public causes and to foster 
a due sense of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.” 12 

The Commission discussed in detail the various implications of 
the freedom of expression and liberty of press vis-a-vis the demo- 
cratic society. It said : 

“Democratic society lives and grows by accepting ideas, by experimenting 
with them, and where necessary, rejecting them. It is necessary, therefore, that 
as many as possible of these ideas which its members hold are freely put before 
the public. We would, however, emphasise that the right of free expression is 
derived from the responsibility for the common good. Acceptance of that 
responsibility is the only basis for this right which has been accepted as fun- 
damental, Freedom of the Press does not mean freedom from responsibility 
for its exercise. Democratic freedom in India, and the freedom of the Press, 
can have meaning only if this background is properly understood. In any 
modern democratic society, freedom of the Press from political restrictions is 
as vital as before, and it is generally taken for granted. But there are other 
pressures, which we have discussed elsewhere, which have become more res- 
trictive and inhibitive than political pressure, and which have also to be fought 
with vigilance and courage. We would emphasise further that the right of free 
expression is essentially as an appeal to reason, and its accent should, there- 
fore, be tolerant and friendly. One cannot in the name of free speech give vent 
to malice or prejudice.” 

12 Ibid., p. 339. 


147 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

But papers were, as Gandhiji saw in 1947, or earlier in the 
’thirties, giving vent to such malice and. prejudices. They were 
publishing exaggerated news of communal disturbances without 
verifying them. That also increased tension leading to mob- 
violence. When his appeal to the press fell into deaf ears, he 
solicited the influence of the reading public not to patronize these 
papers. He earlier approached the editors “ to see that false 
report or report likely to excite the public was not pxiblished in their 
newspapers.” 13 But these requests were of no avail. In des- 
peration he said : “ The kind of stuff that was read out to him 
(from press) should never be allowed to be published. Such news- 
papers should be banned.” 14 

As a journalist how could he recommend the banning of papers ? 
He had very definite views about freedom of Press which was, as 
we saw earlier, so dear to his heart. He was all for press liberty, 
excepting the liberty to commit a crime. Service and not irrespon- 
sibility, he expected, should be the motive behind papers. Mis- 
chievous papers, if these did disservice to the community and the 
country, should be banned. He had no compromise on that issue. 
It was no infringement of the liberty of Press. “ It is my certain 
conviction that no man loses his freedom except through -his own 
weakness,” he said. 

He was also criticizing those papers which were indulging in 
political kite-flying. They were publishing scoops giving so-called 
inside information of the impending political changes. Such 
unconfirmed reports, according to Gandhiji, created unneces- 
sary misunderstanding with detrimental results. On May 3, 1947 
at the prayer meeting, he criticized a newspaper report. The 
occasion was attempted disclosure in a leading newspaper in 
Delhi the decision of the Viceroy and the Congress Working 
Committee. He thought that to act in such a fashion was nothing 
but lowering the standard of journalism. The tendency of the 
journalists to pick up the bits from here and there and dish them up 
for the purpose of creating sensation was, according to him, back 
door journalism. That misled the public and harmed the cause. 
Calling them bad examples of foreign journalists, he requested the 

13 M. K. Gandhi : Delhi Diary (Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 
1948), p. 73. 

l * Ibid., pp. 104-105. 


148 



Liberty of the Press 

Indian counterparts to desist from such cheap performance. 1 ' 5 

Gandhiji did not believe in any imposition from outside to curb 
this freedom from responsibility. But the Government of India, 
soon after the adoption of the Constitution, when freedom of 
expression was declared a Constitutional right, became involved 
in a number of problems? leading to an amendment of the Constitu- 
tion qualifying Article 19. 

Government had to take certain action against some newspapers. 
But the High Courts and the Supreme Court overruled the action 
of the Government on the ground that they were ultra vires of 
Article 19(2) of the Constitution as it laid down that “ nothing 
in sub-clause (a) of clause 1 of the Article (which guaranteed the 
right of freedom of speech and expression to all citizens) shall affect 
the operation of any existing law in so far as it related to or present 
the state from making any law relating to libel, slander, defamation, 
contempt of court or any matter which offends against decency or 
morality or which undermines the security of, or tends to over- 
throw, the State.” 

In the amendment introduced by the Government, it was said : 

“ (iii) Amendment of Article 19 and validation of certain laws : (1) in 
Article 19 of the Constitution (A) for clause (2), the following clause shall be 
substituted, and the said clause shall be deemed to have been originally enacted 
in the following form, namely : (2) Nothing in sub-clause (a) of clause (1) 
shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or prevent 
the State from making any law imposing, in the interests of the security of the 
State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, 
restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause, and 
in particular, nothing in the said sub-clause shall affect the operation of any 
existing law in so far as it imposes related to, or prevent the State from making 
any law relating to, contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence. 

“ No law in force in the territory of India immediately before the com- 
mencement of the Constitution, which is consistent with the provisions of 
Article 19 of the Constitution, as amended by sub-section (1) of this section, 
shall he deemed to be void, or ever to have become void, on the ground only 
that, being a law which takes away or abridges the right conferred by sub-clause 
(a) of clause (1) of the said Article, its operation was not saved by sub-dause 
(2) of that Article as originally enacted, and notwithstanding any judgment, 
decree or order of any court or tribunal to the contrary, every such law shall 
continue in force until altered or repealed by a competent legislature or other 
competent authority.” 

1S D. G. Tendulkar : Mahatma (V. K. Jhaveri and D. G. Tendulkar, Bombay, 
1953), Vol. Vn, p. 457. 


149 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

The Select Committee amended it by putting : 

“ 3. Amendment of Article 19 of the Constitution and validation of certain 
laws : 

(1) in Article 19 of the Constitution : 

(a) For clause (2), the following clause shall be substituted and the said clause 
shall be deemed always to have been enacted in the following form, namely : 

(2) Nothing in sub-clause (a) of clause (1) shall affect the operation of any 
existing law, or prevent the State from making any law, in so far as such law 
imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the 
said sub-clause in the interests of the security of the State, friendly relations 
with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, including, in particular, 
any existing or other law relating to contempt of court defamation or incitement 
to an offence.” 

All-India Newspapers Editors’ Conference characterized the 
amendment as ‘ unwarranted and uncalled for.’ They called it 
* a threat to freedom of expression,’ and declared : “ Freedom 

of expression is our birthright and we shall not rest until it is fully 
guaranteed by the Constitution.” The Indian Federation of 
Working Journalists also made similar protest. 

In the same year the Press (Objectionable Matters) Act became 
a law which “ made all actions by Government against the press 
subject to judicial sanction.” 

Government also agreed to create a Press Commission which was 
subsequently formed with, among others, representatives of All- 
India Newspapers Editors’ Conference, [Indian Federation of 
Working Journalists and Indian Languages Newspapers Associa- 
tion, to investigate the entire field of journalism. 

The amendment, as mentioned, qualified freedom of expression. 
No doubt the liberty of the press should be harmonious with 
individual’s or group’s duty to the community. But that implied 
some restrictions. M. Lopez in his report to United Nations 
cautioned by saying that “ concept of freedom with responsibility 
can be pushed to a point where the emphasis on responsibility 
becomes in effect the negation of freedom itself. It should be the 
common concern of developed and undeveloped countries alike to 
seek a cure for the disease without killing the patient. The doctrine 
of absolute freedom of information has its dangers ; but they may 
be no more formidable than those which could arise from the 
irresponsible use of the concept of responsibility.” 

The American Press Commission was more emphatic. In the 
book A Free and Responsible Press it pointed out : 

150 



Liberty of the Press 

ec Freedom of the Press is essential to political liberty. Where men cannot 
freely convey their thoughts to one another, no freedom is secure. Where free- 
dom of expression exists, the beginnings of a free society and a means for every 
retention of liberty are already present. Free expression is therefore unique 
among liberties. 

The right to freedom of expression is an expression of confidence in the 
ability of free men to learn the truth through the unhampered interplay of 
competing ideas. Where the right is generally exercised, the public benefits 
from the selective process of winnowing truth from falsehood, desirable ideas 
from evil ones. If the people are to govern themselves, their only hope of doing 
so wisely lies in the collective wisdom derived from the fullest possible infor- 
mation, and in the fair presentation of differing opinions. The right is also 
necessary to permit each man to find his way to the religious and political beliefs 
which suit his private needs/' 

More dangerous than the Government restrictions, there is the 
tendency now of baneful effect of other subtle but more vicious 
control of which Gandhiji could not much foresee. It was the 
emergence of big industrialists as newspaper proprietors. They 
controlled a number of papers and formed 6 chain 9 which would 
give people news and views designed to suit their own class or group 
interest, quite contrary to the Press Commission’s concept when 
it said : 

“ Just as the public have a vital interest in the purity of their water supply 
so have they an equally vital interest in the accurate presentation of news and 
fair presentation of views. In other words the news and views which newspapers 
purvey carry with them a vital public interest." 

The Link magazine, in its issue of September 2, 1962, gave a 
detailed account of the rising vested interest in the free flow of news 
and views and said : 

“ Alistair Hetherington, editor of the Manchester Guardian , interviewed 
by a group of Asian students over the BBC television system early last year, 
pointed out that in Britain * the big newspaper proprietors are mainly concerned 
with newspapers and not with other things. Lord Rothermere, Lord Beaver- 
brook, Cecil King, Roy Thompson— these people are primarily in the news- 
paper business. They are not making soap. They are not selling soap. They 
are not making steel, or bananas, or whatever else it may be \ 

He contrasted this with the situation in India : 

“ 6 1 well realise that in India. . . the ownership of newspapers is often 
much more concealed and that newspapers are frequently run as ancillaries to 
another business or part of a large trading empire. It may be that the news- 
paper will be used — it sometimes has been the case — to forward the interest of 
the particular empire. It can lead to a measure of political corruption \ " 

This tendency in newspapers in India has indeed a danger in that 
news and views are handled to suit the big industrialists whose 

151 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 


business policies are not always to help common people. They are 
utilizing newspapers to bring in pressure on the Government so 
that they toe their line. They know very well the power of the 
press which had formed public opinion in the country for years. 
Hence they purchased a number of them. To quote the Link 
magazine again : 

“ ... In buying up newspapers the founders of Jute Press were in fact 
investing not so much in a source of direct profit as in a weapon with which 
the State could be made to protect and defend the profit motive. . . . 

“ By the time the Press Commission submitted its report, the exploitation of 
the press by the most powerful section of the Indian Industrialists had become 
an established fact in Indian public life. The Press Commission said, for 
example : 6 We have seen instructions given to the editor in the name of the 
proprietor, directing him to give special prominence to an interview on a subject 
of economic controversy and another which calls for full publicity to state- 
ments issued by the president of the Sugar Merchants' Association/ " 

The Commission also mentioned a directive c issued to every 
member of the editorial staff 5 and referring to the criticism that the 
proprietor had chance to make regarding the news and articles 
published on princes. He (the proprietor) says, “ however 
strongly one may dislike the princes, it is a hard fact that the rights 
of princes are popular in Rajasthan like anything. All friends 
should keep these things in view.” 

Shri Jawaharlal Nehru, speaking at the seminar, on February 
17, 1963 on the subject, 6 The Prospect for the Indian Press, 
1963-73,’ sponsored by the Press Institute of India, asked people 
to be cautious about the news and views dished out by the 
monopoly press. He said : 

“ Freedom of the press usually means non-interference by Government. 
There Is such a thing as interference by private interests, by limited private 
interests, by the individual or the group that owns the Press. I am unable to 
understand bow a small group represents the freedom of the press although 
he may not be interfered with by Government or anything. But surely the power 
of money itself is a very important element which interfered with the freedom 
and so many other things .... If one person owns all the major news- 
papers, well, naturally he will see to it that his views are expressed and contrary 
views are not expressed in a way that he dislikes. The man may be a good 
man — since there is no question of an individual — but it is obvious that free- 
dom of the press cannot easily subsist where there is monopoly. Where there 
are chain newspapers, the same thing appears everywhere and gives the impres- 
sion that large numbers of people, intelligent people, hold a certain opinion, 
while it may be the opinion of just the individual who writes, who does not 
represent anybody but himself. He may influence others, certainly, but it is a 

152 



Liberty oj the Press 

misleading phenomena brought about by concentration of money.” 16 

Reaction of the chain papers to this speech of the Prime Minister 
was as expected. In the leading editorial of February 19, 1963 
— c What is a Free Press ’ — The Indian Express wrote : 

“ The bogey of monopoly of the capitalism and of the menace of the private 
sector is a favourite war-cr& to conceal the ineptitude and bungling of a great 
part of the public sector whose loss of public moneys would by now have created 
an outcry, if not an uproar, among the shareholders of any private company. 
But the public sector continues unabashed in its own sheltered inefficiency. Is 
the official protective umbrella now to be extended to the public sector of the 
Indian Press, represented by the anti-monopolist, anti-capitalist and anti-public 
sector patriots of the Communist press which we notice is spreading its tenta- 
cles beneath the benign gaze of the Government. If the much maligned private 
sector press is to be chastised day in and day out by the Government we seem 
to be on the threshold of a regimented press required to say and do as an 
omnipotent Government, using its emergency powers and decrees. Thi 9 might 
be a press in the Government's image. It would not be a free press.” 

The Hindustan Times , in its leader of the same day — c A Free 
Press * — explained the circumstances leading to the growth of 
newspaper monopoly. It said : 

“ Not unexpectedly, Mr. Nehru used the opportunity to speak to an audience 
of journalists on Sunday to dwell on the threats to the freedom of the Press 
that are inherent in the manner the Press is organised in this country. Mr. Nehru 
deplored the fact that the big newspapers were controlled by industrial interests 
and he referred to the stranglehold of the power of money on the dissemination 
of news and the expression of views. A great deal of thought has been given 
to the countering of these dangers by, among other, the Press Commission. 
But one difficulty that anyone who has given any consideration to the subject 
has come up against is that the resources required to run a good modern news- 
paper are of a scale which have made newspapers themselves very big business. 
This cannot be changed. Quite apart from this, it may be pertinent to remind 
ourselves that newspapers were acquired by big industrial interests at a time 
when the Press was a business hazard. What those who had started newspapers 
in the days of the national struggle were looking for were rich men to pay the 
losses. Times have certainly changed for the newspaper industry and, by the 
standards of those early years of struggle, they may now be said to have entered 
a period of prosperity. But we may doubt that the prosperity is such as to 
attract public investment interest for new newspaper ventures.” 

In conclusion it said : 

“ On the whole, it must also be acknowledged that those who control big 
newspapers have not used them for anti-social ends though the outcry against 
* monopoly ' has been made a fashionable one by a certain type of politician. 
But the dangers mentioned by Mr. Nehru are very real ones and it would be 

16 Press Release (Press Information Bureau, Government of India, New 
Delhi, February 17, 1963). 


153 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

folly to entrust such vital issues as freedom of the Press to the continued good 
sense and enlightenment of the newspaper magnates. If a change in newspaper 
ownership in today's conditions is not practical, new thinking could more 
usefully turn to other methods of achieving the results mentioned by Mr. 
Nehru. In Great Britain, for instance, the separation of ownership and respon- 
sibility for editorial conduct has been adopted successfully in several news- 
papers. There is no reason why the pattern cannot oe followed here by creating 
trusts charged with the special function of keeping an eye on editorial policy 
and insulating the editor and the editorial staff from the influence of the pro- 
prietors/* 

The colossus of newspaper trade, in this context, was nicely put 
in by Mr. Kingsley Martin. He said : 

£< Before Lord Northcliffe died, the owner of some seventy papers of various 
types, he declared that no one could in future start a daily paper with less than 
£ 2,000,000 capital. In 1947 the figure would be much higher, even if supplies 
of newsprint could be obtained. Thus the freedom of the press, still immensely 
important in the sense of the freedom freely to inform, comment and criticise, 
has become, in the sense of the right to start and run a daily newspaper, as 
meaningless as the slum-dweller's legal freedom to live in the Ritz or to spend 
his unemployment pay in touring the Riviera in a Rolls-Royce. The position 
is much worse now/' 17 

Considering all these obstacles in a country when democracy is 
in its infancy, the Press Commission, while dealing with the subject 
of liberty of press suggested some course which is worth reproducing 
in details : 18 

“ The tender plant of democracy can flourish only in an atmosphere where 
there is a free interchange of views and ideas which one not only has a moral 
right, but a moral duty, to express. As Mahatma Gandhi has stated in words 
which have been inscribed in the portals of All India Radio at Delhi, 6 1 do not 
want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I 
want the culture of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. 
But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any of them. Mine is not a religion of 
the prison house. It has room for the least among God's creation. But it is 
proof against insolence, pride of race, religion or colour/ 

“ Democracy can thrive not only under the vigilant eye of its legislature, 
but also under the care and guidance of public opinion, and the Press is, par 
excellence, the vehicle through which opinion can become articulate. Its role 
consists not only in reflecting public opinion, but in instructing it and giving it 
proper orientation and guidance. For this, the Press has not only a moral right 
to free expression, but is subject to certain responsibilities also. f In the absence 
of accepted moral duties, there can be no moral rights. From the moral point 

17 Kingsley Martin : The Press the Public Wants (The Hogarth Press, London, 
1947), p. 22. 

la India Government : Report of the Press Commission (Manager of Publi- 
cations, Delhi, 1954), Part I, pp. 359-360. 

154 



Liberty of the Press 

of view, freedom of expression does not include the right to lie as a deliberate 
instrument of policy. The moral right does not cover the right to be deliberately 
or irresponsibly in error/ But the terrain of moral restrictions is not always 
co-extensive with the legal restrictions which may be imposed upon the right. 
Upto a point the restrictions must come from within. The legal protection may 
continue to remain even though the moral right to it has been forfeited. To 
quote again from the American Commission's Report, 6 Many a lying venal, 
and scoundrelly public expression must continue to find shelter under a 6 Free- 
dom of the Press ' built for widely different purposes, for to impair the legal 
right even when the moral right is gone may easily be a cure worse than the 
disease. Each definition of an abuse invites abuse of definition. If the courts 
had to determine the inner corruptions of personal intention, honest and neces- 
sary criticism would proceed under an added peril. Though the presumption is 
against resort to legal action to curb abuses of the Press, there are limits to legal 
toleration/ Within the limits of this legal tolerance, the control over the Press 
must be subjective or professional. The ethical sense of the individual, the 
consciousness that abuse of freedom of expression, though not legally puni- 
shable, must tarnish the fair name of the Press and the censure of fellow jour- 
nalists, should all pperate as powerful factors towards the maintenance of the 
freedom even without any legal restrictions being placed on that freedom/' 

By suggesting this, the Commission, more or less, voiced the 
feelings of Gandhiji who did not believe in Government measures 
to protect the liberty of press. Besides suggesting control of pen 
while writing for papers, he gave, long back, a solution to check 
irresponsibility. He said : 

“ The real remedy is healthy public opinion that will refuse to patronise 
poisonous journals. We have our journalists' association. Why should it not 
create a department whose business it would be to study the various journals 
and find objectionable articles and bring them to the notice of the respective 
editors ? The function of the department will be confined to the establishment 
of contact with the offending journals and public criticism of offending articles 
where the contact fails to bring about the desired reform. Freedom of the 
press is a precious privilege that no country can forego." 

But are the journalists listening ? 


155 




In Retrospect and Prospect 


Gandhiji breathed his last on January 30, 1948. On March 29, 
1949, the Harijan, which Gandhiji had been editing for a long time 
issued the following : 

“All work in whatsoever sphere, was a means primarily of service in Oandhiji's 
eyes. Newspapers and journals can build up a fitting memorial to him in this 
matter by conforming or trying to conform to the unimpeachable standards 
of journalism practised by our revered and beloved leader/* 

Since 1903, Gandhiji, through his journals the Indian Opinion , 
the Young India , the Navajivan and the Harijan , not only did pro- 
pagate his views, but, in the process, laid down a standard for 
journalists to emulate. While running the papers, his idea was to 
educate the people so that they could understand not only the 
significance of independence — political, economic and social — 
but also participate actively in freeing humanity from the bondage 
it was in. His motto, as a journalist, was service. He declared 
earlier : cc One of the objects of a newspaper is to understand the 
popular feeling and give expression io it ; another is to arouse 
among the people certain desirable sentiments and the third is 
fearlessly to expose popular defects.” 

All through his life Gandhiji tried to uphold these tenets of faith. 
He did not take a short-term view on anything. He would not care 
for quick or spectacular success. His was a steady and sure process 
with a clear-cut objective. To him means were as important as 
ends. Moreover, truth with him was God. He could not barter 
away truth for anything. 

The Press Commission also felt the absolute necessity of truthful 
and objective presentation of news and views and said : 

“ The need for truthful, objective and comprehensive presentation of news 
from all comers of the world was never more urgent. Hundreds of millions 


156 



In Retrospect and Prospect 

of our people have been enfranchised. A large number of them may yet be 
illiterate. But they have also shown considerable shrewdness and understanding 
of political events. The man behind the plough is eager to understand the 
world community of which he has become a part. He wants to know all that 
is happening around him, and he reads the newspapers eagerly or listens to it 
being read out. The future of the country depends on him, and it is his choice 
that is going to decide questions of peace or war. He wants facts, but also 
expects his newspaper to give him the truth about the facts ." 1 

Mr. Henry Polak, as mentioned earlier, recalled stories when 
Gandhiji would insist on high standard of responsibility while 
editing the Ittdian Opinion. The Times, London, was his model in 
those days. Like the famous John Thaddous Delane, editor of 
The Times, Gandhiji could say The duty of the journalists 

is the same as that of the historian — to seek out the truth, above 
all things, and to present to his readers not such things as state- 
craft would wish them to know but the truth as near as he can 
attain it.” 

With Mr. Henry Polak he was insistent that objectivity must be 
maintained — * Keep your standards right.’ To his son Shri 
Manilal, in South Africa, Gandhiji wrote : “You should write 
what is the truth in the Indian Opinion. If you err do not hesitate 
to confess it.” 

And again in 1919, he reiterated in the unauthorized paper the 
Satyagraha : “ There can be no room for untruth in my writings.” 

Gandhiji will correct any mistakes found in his writings. 
Instances of these have been given earlier. He had his own concept 
of newspaper running which was not only unconventional, but 
diametrically opposite to the usual norm. Gandhiji did not like 
the idea of building up the sales of his paper on the theory of * what 
the readers want.’ He would never, for that, publish sensational 
stories with breath-taking headlines. 

He believed that the readers should support the paper for whom 
it was published. If they did not want it, Gandhiji would not run 
it on advertisement or adopt any and every means to promote 
sales. He would never be a party to exploit the base elements in 
human beings. He believed in the nobler traits in them and would 
feed his eternal craving — the quest for truth. 

He tried, as we saw, to understand peoples’ feelings and give 

1 India Government : Report of the Press Commission (Manager of Publi- 
cations, Delhi, 1954), Part I, p. 340. 


157 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

expression to these. He identified himself with the common man. 
He tried and was successful to a very great extent, in feeling the 
pulse of the mute millions, so that he would know what exactly 
they wanted. 

He would communicate with his readers. He would talk to 
them, not talk at them, as Mr. Louis Fischer said. His was not a 
sermon from the hill top. It was a communion with people. He 
broke the convention of Town Hall speeches and pulled down the 
decorated rostrums set up for brilliant speeches. He walked 
straight down to the field where millions were slogging. He would 
sit with them and speak about things which affect their lives, 
in a language understood by them. This was a big departure from 
the technique of Indian journalism of the ’twenties and 
’thirties. He was an editor leading his readers to the righteous 
path. He was * Bapu ’ or father to all. He did not like to be called 
Mahatma, and with his frank sincerity declared the mission of his 
life. He said : 

“To describe truth, as it has appeared to me, and in the exact manner 
in which I have arrived at it, has been my ceaseless effort. The exercise has 
given me ineffable mental peace .... 

“But the path of self-purification is hard and steep. To attain to perfect 
purity one has to become absolutely passion free in thought, speech and action ; 
to rise above the opposing currents of love and hatred, attachment and 
repulsion. I lenow that I have not in me as yet that triple purity, in spite of 
constant ceaseless striving for it. That is why the world’s praise fails to move 
me, indeed it often stings me ” 

Journalists began to imitate him. They went to the field and 
collected stories about the common man — his thought and feeling, 
his desire and ambition. Whether it was a political, economic or 
social article, it invariably centred round the masses. 

Gandhiji’s editing of the Navajivan, in Gujarati, gave language 
papers a prestige, they had hitherto lacked. In practically all the 
provinces language papers began to be published. In a few cases 
they showed the largest circulation in the country. This circulation 
was not only confined to towns ; it travelled down to remote 
corners. Newspapers appointed correspondents in many far away 
places to get news from the villages. 

“Many of his followers were moved to write and publish in the Indian 
languages, in imitation of his own direct style. They wrote a simple prose. 
Regional journalism began to acquire an importance and there was hardly any 

158 



In Retrospect and Prospect 

area of the country which did not have its newspaper. These did not displace 
the English Press which provided all-India media." 2 

Among the regional papers the Nayctk, the Basumati , the 
Nabashakti, the Sanjibani in Bengali, the Sandesh, the Lokmanya 
in Marathi, the Bharat Mitra, the Vishwamitra in Hindi became 
quite well known. Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya himself started 
the Abhyudaya. Similarly, the Urdu papers, particularly Abul 
Kalam Azad’s the Al Hilal, Mohammed All’s the Hamdard, and 
others published from Lucknow and Lahore became quite popular. 

In Kerala the Malayala Manorama , the Kerala, the Malayalam , 
etc., are worth mentioning in this connection. In Tamil the 
Swadeshamitran, the Desabakhtan , among others, soon made their 
mark. 

This growth of Indian journalism was not without problems. 
Newspapers had to appoint many people as correspondents, 
reporters, sub-editors, etc. They were mostly new in the field. 
The reports coming from them were in many cases faulty. Editors 
or proprietors could not check all that was coming in as news and 
being printed. In many cases, they willy-nilly, were party to the 
printing of such incorrect news. 

The Press Commission, much later, opined : 

“ The analysis shown in inaccuracies, mistakes and slips are more numerous 
in the Indian language newspapers than in those published in English. 
Instances are not many of the essential facts being deliberately omitted or 
suppressed to Suit the editorial policy of the newspapers. In most cases, the 
mistakes arc unintentional and can be attributed to many causes." 3 

In 1946-47, before partition of the country, the situation was 
very bad. Rather than stopping rumours newspapers were adding 
to these. Gandhiji in desparation said : 

“The newspaperman has become a walking plague. In the East as in the 
West, newspapers are fast becoming the people's Bible, the Koran, Zend- 
Avesta and the Gita, rolled into one. All that appears in the papers is looked 
upon as God’s truth. For instance, a newspaper predicts that riots are coming, 
that all the sticks and knives in Delhi have been sold out, and the news throws 
everybody into a panic. That is bad. Another newspaper reports the occur- 
rence of riots here and there, and blames the police with taking sides with 
the Hindus in one place and the Muslims in another. Again the man in the 
street is upset. I want you all to shed this craven fear. It is not becoming of 

2 S. Natarajan : A History of the Press in India (Asia Publishing House, 
Bombay, 1962), p. 190. 

3 India Government : Report of the Press Commission (Manager of Publi- 
cations, Delhi, 1954), Part I, pp. 341-342. 


159 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

men and women, who believe in God and take part in the prayers, to be afraid 
of anyone.” 

On another occasion, he advised the pressmen as to their duties. 
He said, There are occasions, when a journalist serves his pro- 
fession best by his silence.” 

“ But it is a journalist’s job to purvey the facts and let the public 
judge for itself,” the journalist argued. Efid not Gandhiji believe 
in the capacity of the average man to judge correctly, provided he 
had enough knowledge of facts ? But Gandhiji demurred : “ Not 
knowledge of facts. What passes for fact is only impressions or 
estimates of things, and estimates vary. Hence, one gets different 
versions of the same event.” As an illustration, he mentioned 
the parable of seven blind men of Hindustan, each one describing 
the elephant differently and each one believing himself to be right. 

“What is really needed to make democracy to function is not the know- 
ledge of facts, but right education. And the true function of journalism is 
to educate the public mind, not to stock the public mind with wanted and 
unwanted impressions. A journalist has, therefore, to use his discretion, as 
to what to report and when. As it is, the journalists are not content to stick 
to the facts alone. Journalism has become the art of ‘ intelligent anticipation 
of events’.”' 4 

Gandhiji differentiated between news and journalists’ impression 
of coming events. He would not like interpretative news, which 
to him, was journalistic kite-flying. He would advise journalists 
to print authentic news with no fear of contradiction. He would 
ask them to withhold news as long as it could not be verified. But, 
for the journalists it was not easy to listen to his advice. Not that 
they differed theoretically from him on the question of authenticity, 
but because of the keen competition amongst newspapers in coming 
out with the news first. What could be true with Gandhiji and 
his weekly paper, could not be true with a daily newspaper with 
all the competition involved in running it. 

Interpretative news was a recent phenomenon of which Gandhiji, 
apart from his basic disagreement, was not very well aware. The 
readers in the West were not only getting the news but speculative 
news with particular slant or with different interpretations so as 
to create a public opinion the paper desired. Gandhiji would on 
the other hand educate them as intelligent fellow beings. He would 

4 D. G. Tendulkar : Mahatma (V. K~ Jhaveri and D. G. Tendulkar, Bombay 
1953), p. 247. 

160 



In Retrospect and Prospect 

not lead them by the noose as a politician leads the masses. 

To a Director of an influential British paper, Gandhijl said : 
“ We are today suffering from a double evil — the suppression of 
the facts and concoction.” 5 

In another of his prayer speeches, he said : “ The press was 
called the Fourth Estate. It was definitely a power but to misuse 
that power was criminal. He was a journalist himself and he would 
appeal to fellow journalists to realize their responsibility and to 
carry on their work with no idea other than that of upholding the 
truth ” 6 

But as mentioned earlier, it is difficult to maintain truth all the 
time. Besides the lack of trained workers in the field of journalism, 
there are other impediments in the way. The Press Commission, 
in the course of its investigation, did come across instances where 
news items were suppressed in order to please advertisers. In one 
case an advertiser, involved in a criminal case would influence 
that papers did not print the news which were earlier supplied by 
news agencies. In one case a business magnate of Ahmedabad was 
stated to have been arrested in a prohibition case in Bombay. But 
the Ahmedabad papers, obviously, because of pressure, did not 
publish the news. The Commission also pointed out how managing 
editors or influential editors ‘ accommodate 5 their friends by 
suppressing news which otherwise could embarrass them. In 
conclusion, the report says : “ Our view is that, once the editor 

feels that there is a conflict between the loyalty to his friends (includ- 
ing advertisers) and his duty with the public, there is a risk of his 
falling short of the high standard of his profession.” 7 

There can be pressure through other means. The All-India 
Newspapers Editors’ Conference alleged that papers were put to 
pressure to support the policy of political and communal 
organizations. 

Then there is pressure from foreign Governments. The General 
Manager of a prominent Bengali paper, which has since dis- 
continued publication, said that nearly 75 per cent of its circulation 
was in East Pakistan was due to the fact that other papers had been 

® Ibid., Vol. VII, p. 282. 8 Ibid., Vol. VII, p. 1 15. 

7 India Government : Report of the Press Commission (Manager of Publi- 
cations, Delhi, 1954), Part I, pp. 323-324. 


161 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

banned. Asked whether the authorities there had no objection to 
the policy of his paper, he answered that it had always maintained 
an independent editorial policy “ which might have suited the 
East Pakistan Government.” 8 

Bias in news presentation may also be due to the fact that a 
person or a group of persons, controllings a paper, belonged to a 
particular class which subscribed to a particular faith. They may 
believe in the institution of private property and hence black out 
any news to control them. 

Gandhiji was against premature disclosure of news. He did not 
entirely agree with the dictum that the ‘ Press live by disclosures.’ 
He had, as mentioned earlier, disclosed top secret matters. But he 
did that after ascertaining the correctness of the fact. Like the 
famous Delane he would agree that the duty of newspaper is “to 
obtain the earliest and most correct intelligence of the events of the 
time and instantly, by disclosing them, to make them common 
property of the nation.” 

In another prayer speech, Gandhiji criticized as already referred 
to the attempted disclosures of the so-called agreement reached 
between the Viceroy and the Congress Working Committee. 

But could the Indian journalists get away from this influence ? 

There was, and still is, to some extent, some sensation-monger- 
ing in the Indian press. In 1954, the Press Commission did not 
notice that rise in an alarming manner, whether in headlines or in 
news presentation. It said, “ . . . . The well established news- 
papers have on the whole maintained a high standard of 
journalism. We are glad to state that they have avoided cheap 
sensationalism and unwarranted intrusion into private lives. They 
represent a decisive majority of the total circulation in India. 
Objectionable features have been noticed in a small section of the 
Press.” 

But Shri J. Natarajan, in his book, History of Indian Journalism, 
did not agree with this. He said : 

“The press developed in those early years of freedom the sensational side 
of journalism which has now become a permanent factor in Indian journalism. 
The bulk of the newspapers was politically minded. A Bengal editor- 
proprietor unblushingly avowed that he had to adopt a communal policy 

* Ibid., p. 352. 


162 



In Retrospect and Prospect 

because playing down riots and disturbances curbed his sales. ‘ Even the 
newsboys refuse to touch my paper if my rivals report a large number of deaths 
than I do,' he remarked, adding eloquently that he had taken the hint and 
been justified by results." 

Yellow journalism is not easy to define. Normally, it should 
be malicious and wilful publication of reports known to be false. 
It may also be building up of a cock and bull story on an insigni- 
ficant matter. It may also include a lurid exposure of personal 
lives of individuals. Also included in it is abusive or suggestive 
language to debase public tastes. 

“ Yellow journalism of one type or another is increasing in this country. 
It is confined not to any particular area or language but is perhaps more 
discernible in some than others. It was a matter of great concern to us to 
find, instances of such yellow journalism are to be found, everywhere the 
majority of the journalists, who appeared before us, had little to say about it 
except of course, to condemn in general terms.” a 

The Press Commission further said, 

“ We must mention with regret that a great deal of the objectionable 
writings scurrilous, obscene, indecent and personal does exist in the Indian 
Press though it is convenient to the periodical Press, and the daily newspapers 
have been comparatively free from these evils.” 10 

Though, more or less, the Indian Press has maintained their 
position till now, its counterpart in the West was going from bad 
to worse. 

More than thirty years after Gandhiji commented on such 
catchy or misleading displays, we find President Kennedy worried 
about the same. It concerned relationship of Mrs. Kennedy with 
the press ; the danger of twisted and out of context captions, is 
nonetheless of concern to all. The so-called confidential type of 
magazines were continuously publishing Mrs. Kennedy’s photo- 
graph on covers with headlines calculated to draw the immediate 
attention of the readers in thinking that “ they will learn about 
the most intimate recesses of Jackie’s life.” A few samples were : 
“ How long can they hide the truth from Caroline Kennedy ? ” 
Though the headline was breath-taking, the story was in the form 
of an advice that Caroline must be protected from over exposure 
to public. Another sample : “ Told for the first time. The illness 
that’s breaking Jackie’s heart.” Inside material revealed that it 
was a story about the illness of the President’s father. Another 

10 Ibid., p. 39. 


Ibid., p. 346. 


163 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

headline : “ The hidden life of Jackie Kennedy.” The story is 

about Mrs. Kennedy’s love for her husband and their quiet life. 
The President, it was reported, called these articles 64 Chessy ” and 
was considering whether steps could be taken against such 
things. 11 

Lord Shawcross, ex-chairman of the British Royal Commission 
on the press, whjle addressing the annual conference of the Com- 
monwealth Press Union, inaugurated on June 17, 1963, by Prime 
Minister Harold Macmillan, said : 

“Although in many respects we have the best Press in the world, I should 
lack courage if I did not say it is open to criticism here. It may be that the 
Press has less influence now a days on political opinion ; it certainly has great 

influence on the manners and morals of the community Evil communications 

corrupt good manners. I think we should all ask ourselves whether the 
publicising of pimps, prostitutes or perverts in highly paid interviews of feature 
articles is really a good thing. Is it useful to pay large sums for the so-called 
memoirs — usually written by a ghost — of criminals convicted of crimes, 
however sensational, of prostitutes, however degraded, or adulteresses, how- 
ever notorious in cafe society ? 

“ When young women through some glandular malfunction develop unduly 
large busts, whilst they may be suitable exhibits in a medical museum, is it 
helpful to publish their photographs in the popular Press ? Is it wise cons- 
tantly to advertise the fact (without which advertisement it would often not be 
the fact) that the wages of sin are sometimes great, as for instance, when some 
trollop is offered six times the salary of a Prime Minister to appear in a night 
club ? I put these problems as questions. . . . 

“ I have heard newspapermen say that the public has to be given what it 
wants. Any prostitute could say the same. But there is some truth in it. The 
fact is that we get the papers, and for that matter the politicians we deserve." 

He voiced the same feelings as did Gandhiji throughout his 
life, however, much Mr. Ed Mowrer, as narrated earlier, might 
differ that paper was not a school to educate the readers, and said : 

“ We ordinary people, weak, untutored, open to all sorts of temptations and 
influences are entitled to look to the Press for a beneficient influence. There is 
much that is beastly and squalid in the world. But there remains far more that 
is beautiful and splendid. Let us hear more about the beautiful and splendid 
and give less advertisement to the beastly and the squalid." 

So Far, about news, what about views? Are the editors upholding 
the standards as Gandhiji preached and practised? By and large, 
these have not fallen short of the usual standard — though not the 
standards of, Gandhiji. But there are persons who do not think 
high of the editorials. Shri Chalapathi Rao of the National Herald \ 

11 Time (New York, December 14, 1962), p. 54. 


164 



In Retrospect and Prospect 

speaking on the seminar on Indian Press, 1963-73, organized by 
the International Press Institute, said : 

‘‘Much of the editorial writing lacks force, conviction of style. Fear and 
timidity, collective and individual, are inhibiting factors and they are often the 
result of lack of freedom. If most newspaper editorials in India sound as 
though they had been ground out of a machine that manufactures manifestoes, 
it is partly because of cowardice, of a certain fear of offending important 
interests, of lack of conscience, and even of a sense of duty. The editorial writer, 
who is not usually the editor, has his problems of conformity and conscience. 
This is not so difficult of adjustment. But as long as the editorial writer is merely 
told what to write on or is asked to write on whatever he likes, there can be 
no authentic articulation and no circulation of policy. The editorial writer 
is being pushed aside, if not quite displaced, by the columnists, and while the 
columnists were originally employed in America because it was thought 
editorial writers lacked guts and personality, publishers now seek to buy 
columnists who echo their views.” 

If Gandhiji, as an editor, was able to focns the attention of the 
journalists to the villages of India, he was much more successful, 
as a writer, in influencing authors to write on the same subject. 
Presiding over the Gujarati Literary Conference on November 2, 
1936, reference of which was made earlier, Gandhiji posed the 
question : Whom should the author write for ? For the few 
intellectuals or for the general masses ? 

Not only in style which from the Johnsonian or Macaulayan 
verbosity gave place to the Gandhian simplicity but in the content 
as well, Gandhiji revolutionized the thinking of his contemporaries. 
We discussed earlier Gandhiji’s contribution to Gujar ati literature. 
He reformed it and helped in its all round growth. Quite a number 
of Gujarati authors not only followed his style but wrote on 
subjects dear to Gandhiji’s heart. 

In other languages also, the impact of Gandhiji was great. To 
take a few examples, Shri Sankarram wrote about the * Children 
of the Kaveri.’ Shri Humayun Kabir in Man and Rivers portrayed 
the picture of rural life in Bengal. It was the day-to-day life of 
common people. Land to the cultivators, as portrayed, was no 
longer a piece of earth. It was part of * Bharat Mata ’ • — Mother 
India — which nourished them. Similar was the theme of the 
writings of Shri K. S. Venkataraman. His Murugan the Tiller 
or Kandan the Patriot created quite a sensation, in Tamilnad in the 
’twenties and ’thirties. The fortitude and trials of the forties 
were ably portrayed by Smt. Kamala Markandaya 0 Some Inner 

165 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

Fury), Shri R. K.. Narayan {^Waiting for the Mahatma), Shri Mulk 
Raj Anand {Untouchable), Shri Khwaja Ahmed Abbas (Inquilab), 
Shri Bhabani Bhattacharyya ( So Many Hungers), to mention a 
few of the literatures produced during the period. Gandhiji’s 
political movements, as they nourished and built up editors, so did 
they provide ample scope to authors to wMd their pen upon. 

As we had seen, Gandhiji was very cautious about the freedom 
of expression and liberty of the press during the political move- 
ment in South Africa. In India, when the Government, with a 
heavy hand, was curtailing the same, he started writing vehemently 
against Government action. According to him, the duty of the 
press was to expose fearlessly the defects. 

Gandhiji used to say that the press lost freedom through its own 
weakness. If the press behaved properly, i.e., if it was correct in 
its presentation of news and views, nobody could restrict its 
freedom ; but, if, on the other hand, it could not check its pen, it 
might invite restrictions through its own columns. He was 
constantly reminding his fellow journalists of this, all the time, 
particularly during the communal tension. Under the sub-head 
‘Poisonous Journalism,’ in the Young India of May 28, 1931, 
Gandhiji wrote : 

“ I have before me extracts from journals containing some gruesome things. 
There is communal incitement, gross misrepresentation and incitement to 
political violence bordering on murder. It is of course easy enough for the 
Government to launch out prosecutions or to pass repressive ordinances. 
These fail to serve the purpose intended except very temporarily, and in 
no case they convert the writers, who often take the secret propaganda, when 
the open forum of the press is denied to them.” 

But, as we saw, not many people were listening to his advice. It 
was much worse in 1946—47, immediately before and after partition 
of the country. He got so much fed up with the press that he himself 
suggested the banning of the papers. 

During the Second World War, when Gandhiji was hardening 
his attitude towards the British Government which committed 
India into the war without consulting her, he was, even then, 
careful about publishing war news in his own paper. He would 
not write anything which would embarrass the Government and 
help the enemies. In the July 19, 1942, issue of the Harijan, he 
wrote : 

“ Let me add too that without needing any pressure from outside, I am using 


166 



In Retrospect and Prospect 

the greatest restraint in the choice of printing matter. Nothing is being cons- 
ciously published that would give any clue to the ‘ enemy ’ as to military 
objectives or dispositions. Care is being exercised to avoid all exaggeration 
or sensational matter. Adjectives and adverbs are well weighed before being 
used. And they know that I am ever ready to acknowledge errors and mend 
them." 

Gandhiji, thus, beliewed in self-control. As we saw earlier, he 
was exhorting journalists to have control on pen. He knew the 
power of the press and that is why he was cautious about self- 
discipline. 

But his advice was not much heeded by the journalists. Though 
in the Constitution adopted in 1950, freedom of expression and 
liberty of the press were guaranteed, the Government of India 
had to amend it. This was because of the exigency of the situation. 
People were stretching this concept of freedom of expression to 
the utmost length. The judicial courts, in a few cases, exempted 
people from punishment under the constitutional safeguard. Thus, 
the press lost its liberty to a certain extent through its own weak- 
ness — weakness in not controlling itself in time. 

What was the impact of Gandhiji on fellow journalists so far as 
advertisements were concerned ? Gandhiji would not soil his 
papers with advertisements. Only one paper of importance — the 
Swarajya — founded by T. Prakasam followed Gandhiji’s example. 

As early as 1919, Gandhiji suggested that there should be, in 
each province, only one advertising medium which could display 
advertisements of things useful to the public. But it was not 
accepted by any party — advertiser, advertising agency or the 
Government. 

Gandhiji had all along been crusading against immoral and 
obscene advertisements. Lengthy excerpts had earlier been re- 
produced on this. He was pained to see editors not averse “ to 
derive an income from advertisements which are obviously intended 
to spread the evils which they should shun.” Press Commission 
also in 1954 noticed many lewd and obscene advertisements in 
the paper. 

To stop them, Gandhiji suggested the following courses : 

(1) Readers’ control. He asked the readers to stop their patronage for the 
paper when they find them displaying indecent advertisements. Gandhiji 
desired an enlightened public opinion which could bring a pressure on the 
newspapers. He wanted women, as they were shamelessly exploited for this 

167 



Mahatma Gandhi — The Journalist 

purpose, to be the vanguard in creating public opinion. But readers, unfor- 
tunately, could not, as desired by Gandhiji, put any pressure on the news- 
papers. 

(2) Editors' or proprietors’ control. He requested editors or the proprietors 
of papers to stop publishing questionable advertisements. Mention has been 
made of Gandhiji's article, dated November 14, 1936 in the Harijan where he 
quoted a letter from a ‘ sister ’ requesting journalists to stop such horrible 
advertisements. At least one editor, that of the Nispruha of Nagpur, as recorded 
by Gandhiji, agreed with his views and forthwith stopped such advertisements. 

Has the press, by and large, kept up the standard practised and 
preached by Gandhiji ? To this an alternative question may be 
asked : Did those who lived with or believed in Gandhiji’s way 
of life uphold his standard in their day-to-day life ? Did the people 
of the country, for whom Gandhiji did so much and ultimately 
gave his life, practise truth ? Or in other words, why should we 
expect something special from the journalists, if we do not expect 
the same from other segments of the community. 

In summing up, it may .be said that though the journalists did 
not rise up to the expectation of Gandhiji, the Press, by and large 
is not worse than it was in 1948. Rather, it is showing signs of 
progress, adjustment and much vigour. 

Press, despite stray pulls here and there, by and large, is per- 
forming a special service. It is, within its limitations, educating 
the readers. While talking about its responsibility and duty, we 
should not forget the handicap it faces. For foreign news it has to 
depend mostly on foreign sources and news agencies. The news 
etc., are to be speedily translated for language papers and edited 
properly. And who does all these ? Half trained or ill trained and 
lowly paid journalists ? As in case of agriculture where we have 
to look to the man behind the plough, more so the journalists in 
newspaper who are to be trained properly before we can expect 
presentation of balanced news and views, by them. Gone are the 
days when a person could say that he would make a journalist out 
of anyone. 

Journalism is not only a craftsmanship ; it is a creative ability. 
It is not a journalist’s job to print news only, but to print what is 
‘ fit to be printed.’ For that he has to combine in him the role of, 
among others, an educationist, sociologist and an economist. He 
will not only be well versed in subjects he is to deal with, but he 
has to understand their implications in the present context. 

168 



In Retrospect and Prospect 

To be creative, he must develop the capacity to react to the events 
he is going to print or count on, he will have to be knowledgeable 
enough to interpret these properly. Above all, he must have the 
ability to communicate things. The subjects selected are to have 
universal appeal ; the words picked should be well chosen, clear 
and understandable. Though the press has been compared to an 
industry, it differs from an ordinary one in many respects. It is the 
character of the paper, the role of the journalist, the social 
importance of the written sheet, which makes it different from 
industries. To quote Mr. C. P. Scott : “ Whatever its position 

or character, at least it should have a soul of its own.” 

Because of the role assigned to papers, journalists have a greater 
duty, than others in the society. Press has enjoyed particular 
privilege. It has constitutional guarantee for its liberty. The 
publishing industry, to take an example, has not any such. For that 
reason people expect much from newspaper. It has been assigned 
a particular role. This role of leadership it has to preserve, pursue 
and foster in years to come. 

In the end, let us remember the words of the First Royal Com- 
mission on Press : 

“ There is still widespread among pressmen a sense of vocation ; they feel 
a call somewhat as sailors feel the call of the sea." 


169 



All work in whatsoever sphere was a means primarily of 
service in Gandhiji's eyes. Newspapers and journals can 
build up a fitting memorial to him in this matter by con- 
forming or trying to conform to the unimpeachable standards 
of journalism practised by our revered and beloved leader. 

The Harijcm , March 29, 1948 



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Sachidananda : Sarvodaya in a Communist State , Bombay, Popular Book 
Depot, 1961. 

Santhanam, K. : Satyagraha and the State , Bombay, Asia Publishing House, 
1960. 

Sarma, D. A. : Father of the Nation or the Life and Teachings of Mahatma 
Gandhi, Madras, B. G. Paul & Co., 1956. 

Sarma, V. Swaminath : Essentials of Gandhism , Madras, Shakti Karyalayam, 
1943. 

Saunders, K. J. : 44 Mahatma Gandhi/' Chapter in The Heritage of Asia , 
London, Students’ Christian Movement Press, 1932. 

Schliephacka, B- P. : Mahatma Gandhi. 

Sen, Ela : Gandhi: A Biographical Study, Calcutta, Susil Gupta, 1945. 

Sen, N. B. : Wit and Wisdom of Mahatma Gandhi , New Delhi, New Book 
Society of India, 1960. 

Sen, P. K. : The Press , Publication and Copyright Laws of India , Calcutta, 
Sarkar, 1958. 

Sengupta, B. i& R. Chowuhury, : Mahatma Gandhi and India's Struggle for 
Swaraj 3 Calcutta, Modem Book Agency, 1932. 

Seth, Hiralal : Gandhi in Arms , Lahore, Associated Publications, 1943. 

Shahani, Ranjee : Mr. Gandhi , New York, Macmillan, 1961. 

Sharge, P. Brunath : Gandhi , His Life and Teachings (2nd Edn,), Lucknow, 
Upper India Publishing House, 1958. 

Sharma, Bishan Swarup : Gandhi as a Political Thinker , Allahabad, Indian 
Press, 1956. 

Sharma, Jagdish Saran : Gandhi : A Descriptive Bibliography , Delhi, S. 
Chand & Co., 1955. 

Sharp, Gene : Gandhi Faces the Storm , Ahmedabad, Navajivan, 1961. 

Gandhi Wields the Weapon of Moral Power , Ahmedabad, Nava- 
jivan, 1960. 

The Meaning of Non-Violence , London, Houseman's, 1957. 

Sheean, Vincent : Lead Kindly Lights London, Cassell Co., Ltd., 1950. 

Mahatma Gandhi , New York, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1955. 

Shridharani, K. : Mahatma Gandhi and the World, New York, Duell, Sloan 
& Pearce, 1946. 

— — . — My India , My America , New Yoik, Duell Sloan & Pearce, 1941. 

— . The Journalist in India , Calcutta, Patrika Syndicate, 1956. 

War Without Violence : Sociology of Gandhi's Satyagraha , New 

York, Harcourt, Bruce & Co., 1939. 


183 



Bibliography 

Shrimali, K. : Wardha Scheme , Udaipur, Vidya Bhavan Society, 1949. 

Shriman Narain : One Week with Vinoba , New Delhi, A.I.C.C., 1956. 

Shukla, Chandrashanker (Ed.) : Conversations of Gandhiji , Bombay, Vora 
Co., 1949. 

(Ed.) Gandhiji , as Khow Him , Bombay, Vora, 1945. 

(Ed.) Incidents of Gandhiji 9 s Life , Bombay, Vora, 1949. 

— — (Ed.) Reminiscences of Gandhiji , Bombay, Vora Co., 1951. 

Sitaramayya, Pattabhi : On Khaddar , Madras, Ganeshan Co., 1931. 

— History of Indian National Congress , 2 Volumes, Bombay, Padma 

Publications, 1946. 

Skinner, J. Allen : Towards a Non-Violent Society , London, Peace News, 
1959. 

Snow, E. : Glory and Bondage , London, Victor Gallancz, 1945. 

Soman, R. J. : Peaceful Industrial Relations — Their Science Sc Technique . 

Stern, Elizabeth-Gertrude (Levin) : Women in Gandhi 9 s Life , New York, 
Dodd, Mead, 1953. 

Sumner, G. L. : JEfow / Learned the Secrets of Success in Advertising, Surrey, 
The World's Work, 1953. 

Sunday Times Office : Mahatma Gandhi : The Superman of Age, Madras. 

Suresh Rambhai : Progress of a Pilgrimage, Banaras, Sarva Seva Sangh, 1956. 

— . — — Vinoba Sc His Mission , Banaras, Sarva Seva Sangh, 1954. 

Sykes, Marjorie : Earth is the Lord's : Shri Vinoba Sc the Land, Oxford, 
Church Army Press. 

Taleyarkhan, H. J. H. : 1 have it from Gandhiji, Bombay, Jam-e-Jamshed, 
1944. 

Tendulkar, D. G. : Gandhi in Champaran, Delhi, Publications Division, 1957. 

Mahatma— Life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Vols. 1-8, 

Bombay, V. K. Jhaveri and D. G. Tendulkar, 64, Walkeshwar Road, 1951-53. 

Thapar, (Mrs.) Rajesh Kaur : Weaponless Warrior, Lahore, Civil & Military 
Gazette, 1946. 

Tikekar, S. R. : Gandhigrams , Bombay, Hind Kitabs, 1947. 

Tennyson, Hallam : Saint on the March , London, Victor Gollancz, 1955. 

Unesco : All Men Are Brothers : Life and thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi as told 
in his own words. Orient Longmans, 1959. 

Unesco : The Training of Journalists , Paris, Author, 1958. 

Unnithan, T. K. N. : Gandhi and Free India : (A socio-economic study). 
The Netherlands, W olters- Gronningen, 1956. 

Vairanpillai, Mrs. and M. S. Vairanpillai, : Mahatma Gandhi for the 
Millions : a Basic Biography , Tallakulam, Madura Book House, 1949. 

Varma, V. P. : The Political Philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi and Sarvodaya, 
Agra, L. N. Agarwal, 1959. 

Vasto, Lanza Del : Gandhi to Vinoba : The New Pilgrimage , London, Rider 
& Co., 1956. 

Veillier, Julliette : Mahatma Gandhi, Madras, Ganesh & Co., 1928. 

Vinoba Bhave : Bhoodan Yajna : Land Gift Mission , Ahmedabad, Nava- 
jivan, 1953. 

— Talks on Gita : Kashi, Sarva Seva Sangh, 1958. 


184 



Bibiliography 

Vishwanath Tver : The Indian Press , Bombay, Padma Publishers, 1945. 

Wadia, A. S. N. : Mahatma Gcmdhi : A Dialogue in Understanding , Bombay, 
New Book Co., 1939. 

Walker, Roy : Sword of Gold : A Life of Mahatma Gandhi , London, Indian 
Independence Union, 1945. 

— , — .. — Wisdom of Gandhi in His Own Words , London, Andrew Daktrs, 

1943. 

Watson, Blanche (Comp.) : Gandhi & Non-Violent Resistance , Madras, 
Ganesh <& Co., 1923. 

Watson, Francis & Maurice Brown, : Talking of Gandhi ji, Madras, Orient 
Longmans, 1957. 

Weber, T. A. : Gandhi , London, Pallas Publishing Co., 1939. 

Wellock, Wilfred : Gandhi as a Social Revolutionary , Varanasi, Akhil 
Bharat Sarva Seva Sangh Prakashan, 1953. 

— — — Indians Social Revolution led by Mahatma Gandhi and Now 

Vinoba Bhave , Tanjore, Sarvodaya Prachuralayam, 1959. 

Western Thinkers : Reflections on GandhijTs " Hind Swaraj,” Bombay, 
Theosophy Coy., 1948. 

Winslow, John Copley Sc Verrier Elwin : Gandhi : The dawn of Indian 
Freedom , London, Fleming H. Revell Co., 1931. 

Wolseley, R. E.: Journalism in Modern India , Bombay, Asia Publishing House, 
1953. 

YaJnik, Indulal, K. : Gandhi as I Know Him , Delhi, Danish Mahal, 1943. 

Zacher, R. V. : Advertising Techniques and Management , Illinois, Irwin, 
1961. 


185 



Institutions founded 
or guided by Gandhiji 


Akhil Bharat Goseva Sangh (1928), Sabarmati. 

All India Harijan Sevak Sangh (1933), Rajpath, New Delhi* 

All India Nature Cure Foundation (1946), Poona* 

All India Spinners’ Association (1925), Sevagram. Khadi Vidyalaya, Sevagram, 
was also started under its auspices. 

All India Village Industries Association (1934), Maganwadi, Wardha. Under 
its auspices, Gramsevak Vidyalaya and Magan Sanghrahalaya, Wardha, 
also started functioning in 1938. 

Dakshina Bharat Hindi (Hindustani) Prachar Sabha (1918), Thyagaraya Nagar, 
Madras- 17. 

Gandhi Seva Sangh (1923), Wardha. 

Gujarat Vidyapeeth (1920), Ahmedabad. 

Harijan Ashram (1918), Godhra. 

Hindustani Prachar Sabha (1942), Wardha. 

Hindustani Talimi Sangh (1938), Sevagram, Wardha. 

Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust (1944), Bajajwadi, Wardha. 

Majur Mahajan (the Labour Union) (1920), Mirzapur Road, Ahmedabad. 

Navajivan Press (1919), Ahmedabad. 

Nisargopachar Ashram (1946), Uruli-Kanchan, Poona. 

Rashtriya Gujarati Shala (National Gujarati School) Satyagraha Ashram 
(1915), Sabarmati. 

Satyagraha Ashram (1915), Sabarmati. 

Satyagraha Ashram (1920), Wardha. Under its auspices, the following insti- 
tutions at Wardha and near-abouts also started functioning at some time 
or the other : (a) Kanya Ashram, (&) Mahila Ashram, (c) Gram-Seva 
Mandal, (d) Goseva Channalaya, (e) Maharogi (Leper) Ashram, (/) 
Goseva Sangh, Gopuri, (g) Gram Seva Mandal, (fi) Swaraj Bhandar, 
(i) Paramadhan, Panvar. 

Sevagram Ashram (1936), Segaon. 

Swaraj Ashram (1922), Bardoli, Surat. 


186 



INDEX 




Index 


Accounts, 104 

Advertisements in Indian Opinion , 
Gandhiji's views on, 26, 29, 32 ; 
bring little profit to the people, 
37 ; free from, 39, 81, 109, 116, 

117 ; definite views in respect of, 
newspaper ought to be conducted 
without advertisements, curse of, 

118 ; no party to, 119 ; findings 
of the Press Commission, 120 ; mis- 
chievous, 121 ; objected to, 122 ; 
indecent, 124 ; fraudulent, 125 ; 
Gandhiji was fighting against, 126 ; 
reforms in, 129 ; how to stop 
obscene, 130 ; horrible, 131 ; false, 
132 ; political, 133 ; questionable, 

168 ; unimpeachable standards of, 

169 

Aesthetic, GandhijPs attempts in 
6 Indian Art/ 1 1 
Afghan invasion of India, 41 
Agriculture, 26, 32 
Ahimsa, 66 

Ajmalkhan, Hakim, 45 
Al Hilah 28 

All India Spinners 9 Association, 119 
All India Editors' Conference, 145 
All India Newspaper Editors' Con- 
ference, 150 
Allinson, (Dr.), 58 
American Press Commission, 1 50 
Amrita Bazar Patrika, 1, 3 
Amrit Kaur, Rajkumari, 79, 84 
Anglo-Indian Press, 29 


Anglo-Saxon race, 10 
Andrews, C. F., 74 
Anantpur, 57 
Apartheid, 8 

Appreciation, a letter to a barber, 
57 

Approach, 133 
Arab trade, 72 

Arjun, reference to the Tommy, 7 
Asiatics, disfranchisement of, 4 ; 
labour, 14 

Association of Advertising Agencies, 
129 

Autobiography , originally written in 
Gujarati, 97 

Banerjee, Surenoranath, 29 
Bangabasi, 3 ; and Surendranath 
Banerjee, 28 

Bania, a businessman, 100 
Banker, Shankerlal, 38 
Bapu, father to all, 158 
Barns, Margarita, 39 ; on nationalist 
newspapers, 51 
Beaverbrook, Lord, 105 
Belgaum Session, 48 
Besant, Mrs. Annie, 41 ; Editor 
New India , 139 
Bhavabhuti, 90 
Billy Boats, 82 
Birla, G. D., 54, 82, 109 
Black Ordinance, 22 
Blaine, Senator, on recognition of 
Indian independence by U. S., 50 

189 



Index 


Boer War and seiwices offered by 
Gandhi ji during, 6 
Bombay Chronicle , 42, 47, 85 
Brayne, F. L. s book on rural uplift- 
ment, 94 
British Press, 75 
British Indian Association, 1 3 
British Medical Association, 126 
Business Managers, 81 

Caliph of Turkey, 140 
Cape Colony, 25 
Cape of Good Hope, 3 
Cases, discriminatory law, 11 
Central Publicity Bureau. 39 
Chaplin, Charlie, 53 
Chamberlain, 6 
Charkha, 48 
Charkha Sangh, 119 
Chesney, Editor of the Pioneer , 3 
Children, Gandhiji's love for, 52 
Chintamani, C. Y M 29 
Christ, 90 
Christian paper, 44 
Chronicle , 38 
Churchill, Winston, 6 
Circulation, increased, of Indian 
Opinion , 106 

Citizenship, rights denied, 3 
Civilization, industrial, 93 
Civilization, modern, 26 
Colonists, 9 

Colony, hatred against and oppression 
of Indians imported into the 
laws, 4 

Colonies of Natal, 3 
Colonialism, 38 

Community, duty of the journalist to 
the, 134 

Congress, Calcutta, 40 ; Indian Natio- 
nal, 45 ; Working Committee, 45 
Conference, Round Table, 75 ; Guje- 
rat Literary, 90, 165 
Constitution, 149 
Constructive Programme , 60 
Copyright, Gandhiji's views on, 111, 
113 


Correspondents, Gandhiji's advice 
to, 48 

Cow, movement to prevent shipping 
of cows for slaughter, 2 
Cresw ell, resigned his post as a 
manager of a gold mine, 14 
Criminal la aw Amendment Act, 29 
Cripps, (Sir) Stafford, 60 
Criticism, 76 
Crowned Head, 9 

Daily Express , London, 105 
Daily News , 1 
Daily Telegraph , 1 
Dandi March, 51, 143 
Das, D. C 85 
Datta, S., 54 
Dayananda, Swami, 94 
Defence of India Regulations, 29, 30 
Dclane, John Thaddous, 157, 162 
Democracy, 132 
Democratic Society, 147 
Desai, Mahadev, 38, 53, 54, 59, 63 
Dichter, (Dr.), his Motivation, 121 
Dickens, Charles, 90 
Donland, Robert, 81 
“ Do or Die/ call by Gandhiji, 62 
Downs, (Miss) M. G., 17 
* Draconian Order/ against Bombay 
Sentinel , the Jugantar ef Bengal 
and the Pratap of Panjab, 60 
Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objec- 
tionable Advertisements) Act of 
1954, 127 

Earthquake of 1939, Gandhiji's 
views on the causes of, 57 
East Pakistan, 68 
Editors, Managing, 161 
Emancipation, economic and social, 40 
Emerson, influence on Gandhi, 16 
Empire, mighty British, 10 
English, biblical, 86 
English Light Horse, referred by Mr. 

Churchill in his despatches, 7 
Englishman , 42 


190 



Index 


Era, Victorian, 93 

Expenditure and the cause of Indians 
in South Africa, 4-5 

Family Planning, 58 
Famine, the Central Famine Com- 
mittee, 6 
Farrar, Dean, 90 

Federation of Working Journalists, 
147 

Fischer, Louis, 47, 79, 158 
Format, 19 
Forward , 49 

Fourth Estate, the press, 161 
Freedom of speech, of association, of 
press, 143 
Free Press, 153 
Fry, Elizabeth, 20 

Gaekwar, 17 

Galbraith, John Kenneth, 120 
Gandhi, Chhaganlal, 17, 19, 30, 71, 
94, 101, 102 

Gandhi, Devadas, 47, 53, 78 
Gandhi-Trwin Pact, 52 
Gandhi, Maganlal, 24, 25, 30, 32 
Gandhi, Manila], 116 
Gandhi, Mrs. Ava, 99 
Gandhi, Prabhudas, 15, 94 
Gandhian impact, 91 
Gauhati Speech, 70 
Gazette, Ladysmith, 72, 102 
Geneva Conference on the Suppres- 
sion of the Circulation of and 
Traffic in Obscene Publications, 
123 

Geneva Convention, 123 
Ghelani, Manji N., 102 
Gladstone, 87 
Glenco, 74 

God, defying, 80 ; holy communion 
with, 93 

Godfrey, James, address to London 
Indian Society, 72 

Gokhale, Gopal Krishna, 12, 17, 23, 
30, 137 

Gover, Preston, 61 


Govindaswami, 30 
Govindjee, 57 
Green Pamphlet , 3 

Grievances of Indians in South 
Africa, 5 

Griswold, Whitney, 132 
Gujerati businessmen, 36 

Hamidia Islam* Society, 106 
Harijan, 10 ; origin of the name, 55, 
56, 59, 61 ; revival of, 63, 65, 67, 
69; cause, 75, 78, 82 
Harijan Sevvak Sangh, 110 
Hartal, 34 
Hemchand, 101 
Hendrick, George, 9 
Hetherington, editor of Manchester 
Guardian , 151 
Hind Swaraj, 14 
Hindi, propagation of, 106 
Hindustan , 32, 139 
Hindustan Times, 153 
His Majesty’s Hotel, 43 
Holmes, J. H., 97 
Home Rule, 33 
Home Rule League, 36 
Homiman, B. G., 35, 36, 37, 81, 139 
Huxley, Aldous, on good printing, 103 

Independence, struggle for, 29; immi- 
nence of, 66 ; significance of, 156 
Independent , 41, 44 
India, 5, 9 

Indian Ambulance Corps, 6 
Indian Community, advantages in 
subscribing to Indian Opinion , 10 
Indian National Congress, split bet- 
ween Extremists and the Moderates, 
23 

Indian Opinion , launching of, 8, 9, 
10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 ; Athletic 
Club, 17, 19, 20, 23, 24, 26, 27, 30, 
31, 38, 64, 71, 74, 77 
Indian Vegetarian , 2 
Indian Language Papers Association, 
129 

Indian Official Secrets Act, 137 


191 



Index 


Indian Penal Code, 143 
Indian Press (Emergency Powers) 
Act, 144 

Indian Society of Advertisers, 122, 129 
Indians, causes of the, 2 
Injustice, 38 

International Chambers of Commerce, 
129 

International Press Institute, 165 
International Printing Press, the press 
that printed Indian Opinion in 
Phoenix, 26 
Irwin, Lord, 48 
Islam, the spread of, 19 
Iyengar, A. S., 39, 78 

Jallianwala Bagh, massacre in, 34, 
74 

Jam and the Cricket team, 17 
Johannesburg, out-break of plague 
in, 14, 101 

Jorrisen, on evacuation of Indians 
from Transvaal, 5 

Journalism, 8 ; debases, 32 ; mal- 
practices in, 33 ; service should be 
the motto of, 56 ; active, 64 ; truth 
in, 73 ; ignorance of the art of, 
73 ; standard of, 84 ; regional, 
91 ; backdoor, 148 ; growth of 
Indian, 159 ; lack of trained wor- 
kers in, 161 ; yellow, 163 ; poi- 
sonous, 166 ; a creative ability, 168 
Journalist, free-lance, 2, 6 ; problems 
with fellow, 50 
Journalistic adventure, 1 1 
Justice, fight for, 22 

Kalelkar, Kaka Saheb, 95, 111 

Kalelkar, Satish, 112 

Kalidasa, 90 

Kanya-Vikraya, 136 

Kasturbai, 63 

Kathiawad, 67 

Kennedy, Caroline, 165 

Kennedy, J. F., 163 

Kesari , 23 

Kher, B. G., 116 


Khilafat Agitation, 40, 143 
Khrushchev’s address to the Supreme 
Soviet, 133 

Knowledge, 6 for those who would 
know,* 112 
Krishnadas, 70, 77 

Kruger Paul, Ex-President of the 
South African Republic, 19 

Labour Party, 143 
Language, abusive or suggestive, 163 
Languages, Indian, 91 ; expand with 
the expansion of their people, 92 : 
interested in the flourish of all, 99 
Laws, repressive, 135 
Leader, 23 

Letters, Qandhiji’s, 98 ; Tolstoy’s tc 
Gandhiji, 135 

Liberty, criminal versus civil liberty, 
144 ; political, 151 
Liberty of speech, 143 
Libido, sales of goods governed by 
121 

Lincoln, Abraham, 20 
Link , 152 

Literature, undesirable, resulting it 
the demoralization of the people 
128 

London Vegetarian Society, 1, 2 
Lopez, M., 150 

Machine, Printing, 43 
Machines, attitude towards, 133 
Madras Presidency, 96 
Magnetism, personal, 93 
Managerial training, 100, 106 
Manchester Guardian, 74 
Manilal, 42, 73 
Marconi, 3 

Martin, Kingsley, 82, 154 
Massage Establishments, 130 
Masses, awakening of the, 28 
Mashruwala, K. G., 115 
Mayo, Miss, 94 
Mazzini, 20 
Mehta, Ferozeshah, 29 
Messiah, 34 


192 



Index 


Meticulous, 75 
Ministers, 69 
Mirabehn, 70 
Mission, Cabinet, 83 
Modern Review , 49 
Mohammed Ali, Maulana, 28 
Monopoly, out-cry against % 153 
Moplah rebellion, 78 
Mother India , 94 

Mother tongue, general reference 
for, 91 

Morley-Minto Reforms, 23 
Movement, nationalist, 112 
Mowrer, Ed, 164 
Mowrer, Scott, 82 

Mukherjee, H., Deputy Leader of the 
Communist Party in Parliament, 
62 

Mukerji, X C,, 104 
Munshi, K, M., 96, 97, 99 
Muslims, members of the Indian Com- 
munity in South Africa, 20 
* My Handicap/ 91 

Naoroji, Dadabhai, 5, 16, 29 

Natal Advertiser , 72 

Natal Indian Congress, 5, 8, 9, 13 

Natal Mercury , 6 

Natal Witness y 72 

Natarajan, J., 162 

Natarajan, S., 81 

National Day, 34 

National language, 95, 96, 99 

Navajivan , 36, 37, 38, 39, 45, 47 ; 

press, 52, 53, 54, 70, 79 
Nazar, Mansukhlal Hiralal, 12, 13, 
17, 102 

Nehru, Jawaharlai, 29, 47, 49, 50, 67, 
89, 152 

Neufliess, Miss, 102 
New India , 28, 75 
News, interpretative, 160 
Newspaper, first time Gandhi read, 
1, 8 ; promotes good and evil 
equally, 33, 34 ; Gandhi's advice 
not to read, 66; created panic, 67; 
is now an industry, 80 ; fabrication 


of news, 89 ; running a, 101 ; 
conscientious, 134 ; tendency to 
suit the big industrialists, 151 ; 
adding to rumours, 159 
Newspapers, role of, 3, 11, 29 ; 

vernacular, 39 ; walking, 59 
Newspaper-men, in South Africa, 3 
Newspapers Proprietors’ Association 
in Great Britain, 127 
Nightingale, Florence, 20 
Nispruha, 168 
Noakhali, 66, 68 
Non-cooperation, 41 
Non-interference by Government, 
152 

Obituary, 40 
Obscenity, 123 

Opinion, public, 131 ; repression of 
public, 43 

Ordinance, Press, 52 
‘ Ourselves/ the first editorial written 
by Gandhiji, 9, 13, 24, 26 

Pall Mall Gazette , 1 
Palestine, 90 
Pamphleteer, 92 
Panic, 66 

Papers, Anglo-Indian, 62 

Parliament, 95 

Partition of the country, 159 

Patel, Sardar Vallabhai, 67 

Peace time war effort, 65 

Perry, H. C., 53 

Pertit, X B., 30 

Phoenix Settlement, 13, 23, 24 ; 

Trustees, 25 ; Way of Life, 26; 
Trust Deed, 26, 30, 31, 32, 101 
Photographs, 17 
Pillay, G. P., 3 

Poems, attributed to Gandhiji, 74 
Polak, Henry, joined Indian Opinion , 
14, 15 ; introduced Ruskin's Unto 
This Last to Gandhiji, 16, 17, 19, 
24, 71, 73, 104, 117, 156 
Polak, (Mrs.) Millie, 151 
Political writing, sample of, 88 


193 



Index 


Prabhu, R. K.> 77 , 85 
Prakasam, T., his Swaraj ya, 41, 167 
Prasad, Dr. Rajendra, 69 
Prayers, 79 

Press, 12 ; as medium for the dis- 
semination of ideas, 29, 32, 52 ; 
Indian pressmen, 61 ; Pakistani, 
67 ; popular, 81 ; sensational, 
32 ; vernacular, attitude towards, 
95 ; international, bleak prospect 
of, 102 ; future of, 104 ; Parisian, 
133 ; custodian of public interest, 
137 ; freedom of the press in 
England, 138 ; monopoly of, 138 ; 
Act of 1910, 138 ; freedom of 
expression, 141 ; sacred liberty of, 
145 ; freedom of, 148 ; Communist, 
153 ; its duty was to expose 
fearlessly the defects of, 166 
Press Act, objectionable features of, 
40 ; objectionable matters, 150 
Press Association of India, 29, 140 
Press, Bengali, 41 ; liberty of, 47 
Press Commission, 146 
Press Information Bureau, 39 
Press Laws Committee, 44, 45 
Presentation, direct, was the quality 
of Gandhiji 1 s writings, 77 
Prince of Wales, 75 
Prolific writer, 94 
Prophet Mohammed, 20 
Providence, 9 

Publicity, and Gandhiji, 8 
Public Opinion, to educate, 13 
Puckle, Sir Frederick, 62, 84, 85 
Pulitzer, Joseph, 42 
Pyarelal, Seci*etary to Mahatma 
Gandhi, 44, 59, 66, 85, 110 

Quit India, 60, 62, 85, 145 

Rajagopalachari, C,, Ex-Governor- 
General of India, 69 
Rao, Chalapathi, 164 
Readers, most important, 92 
Reading, Lord, 48 

Registration, struggle against, 21 ; 


of the Press and Books Act — 
amendment of, 45 
Reporting, 33 
Resistance, Passive, 30 
Resisters, Civil, writings to boost up 
the morale of civil resisters, 22 
Review, books on social problems, 
55, 93 

Revolution, Industrial, 138 
Riots, communal, 67 
Ritch's address at London, 102 
Robinson, John, one time Prime 
Minister of the Colony of Natal, 21 
Rolland, Romain, 80 
Rowlatt Bill, 33, 34 ; Act, 38 
Rowlatt Committee's recommenda- 
tions, 141 

Roy, Raja Ram Mohan, 29 

Royal Commission on Press, First, 169 

Ruskin, 86 

Saklatwala, Comrade, 76 
Salt Laws, 143 
Salt Tax, 51 
Sanger, (Mrs.), 58 
Santiniketan, 42 
Sapru, (Sir) Tej Bahadur, 44 
Sardesai, 40 
Sarojini Naidu, 21 

Sasaram speech, 70 ; laconic in 
speech, 79 
Sastry, R. V., 54 
Satyagraha, 22, 23 
SatyagraJm , 28, 34, 35, 38, 73, 157 
Satyagrahf , the unregistered news- 
paper issued by Gandhiji, 33, 142 
Saunders, 4, 42 
Scoop, 84 
Scott, C. P., 169 

Self-control, Gandhiji' s belief in, 167 
Se]f-discipline, professional, 71 
Sen, Keshub Chandra, 29 
Sengupta, of Chittagong, 78 
Servant , 41 
Sewagram, 78 
Shawcross, Lord, 164 
Shradhananda, Swami, Murder of, 88 


194 



Index 


Simpleton, Gandhi ji was called, 76 
Skinner, his report on Chinese labour, 
14 

Sobani, Maulana Azad, 78 
Social Service, 30 ; service is the 
principal object, 106 
Solocombe, 75 
South Africa, 2, 8, 9, 14, 33 
Spender, J. A., 81 
Spinning Wheel, 40 
Sriniketan, 57 

Statesman , 1, interview with Statesman 
representative about the grievances 
of Indians, 3 
Stephen, Justice, 140 
Style, was the man ; Macaulayan, 
Sri Bipinchandrapal, Sii Balgan- 
gadhar Tilak, Sri Aurobindo 
Ghosh and Sri Ambika Charan 
Muzumdar wrote in, 86 ; Macau- 
layan amplitude, 87 ; Johnsonian, 
of the Thunderer of Bengal, Sri 
Surendranath Banerjca, 89 ; pom- 
pous ; 90 

Sugar Merchants Association, 152 
Swami, requested by Gandhiji to set 
right the Navajivan Press, 111 

Tagore, 34 ; correspondence bet- 
ween Tagoie and Gandhiji regard- 
ing cooperation, 41, 54 ; ic- 

joinder from Tagore about Gan- 
dhiji’s interpretation of earth- 
quake, 58 

Tamil, Gandhiji started to learn, 99 
Tata, his help for the journal, 25 ; 
gift, 27 

Thoreau, influence on Gandhiji, 16, 86 
Tilak, Balgangadhar, 29, 40 
Times , London, 71, 76 
Time factor, 73 

Times of India , 2 ; recorded expe- 
riences of battle-field, 6 ; gave a 
detailed account of Ambulance 
Corps, 7, 17 

Tolstoy, influence on Gandhiji’s 
writings, 16, 20 


Tommy Atkins, 87 
Toynbee, Arnold, 121 
Translation, 98 

Trujillo regime in Dominican Re- 
public, 134 
Trustees, 68 

Truth, 68 ; balance of judgment, 
73 ; gospel, 93 

Tyler, Wat, fought against unjust 
taxes imposed by the King of 
England, 20 

Typogiaphy, typographical mis- 
takes in Indian Opinion , 18-19 ; 
magic, 89 

United Nations, 150 
Untouchability, 55 

Vegetarian , Gandhiji’ s earliest wri- 
tings on diet, customs, festivals of 
Indians, published, 1 ; the tra- 
velogue, 2 
Viceroy, 148 

Vidyasagar, Ishwar Chandra, 20 
Vidyapeeth, Gujarat, 98 
VIcwspapers, 29, 59 
Vulgarity, 72 

Vyavliarik, Madanjit, cx-schoolmaster 
of Bombay and co-worker of 
Gandhiji who established the Inter- 
national Printing Press at Durban, 
9, 10, 11, 12 

War against Government, 41 
West, A. H., 13, 24, 31, 32, 39 
Williams, (Dr.) Rushbrook, 44 
Winslow, Jack C., 74 
Witness, 72 

Women, the role of, 65 

World War I, 23, 74 ; Second, 166 

Yajnik, Indulal Kannaiyalal, 37 
Yeravada Prison, 46, 47 
Young India, 10, 28, 34, 38, 39, 41, 
45, 46, 49, 51, 53, 54, 85, 107, 142 
Young Persons (Harmful Publica- 
tions) Act, 128 


195